Stamina and staying power: Brunello di Montalcino

Decades old Brunello di Montalcino

Examining the longevity, structure and age-ability of Brunello di Montalcino

When I think of Brunello di Montalcino there are two things that come to mind: Sangiovese and time. Longevità e tempo. Contrasts and comparisons are unnecessary, neither to other grape varieties nor to wine regions that also fashion structured red wines. The sangiovese of Montalcino are like the eponymous medieval hilltop village, an island in a sea of vast varietal openness. They share the impossibility of undergoing the slightest shift in meaning or change, that is, without the assistance of time. They are incomparable, generous and durable but also part of a great community. With the Conzorzio del Vino Brunello di Montalcino at the heart of their matter they find permanence and always seek to endure. As do their makers and protectors. 

Related – Ready for a long-term relationship? Brunello di Montalcino Vigna and Riserva

We’ll be searching for answers to Brunello’s aging capacity on Monday, November 30, 2020 when I play host and moderator for the fifth of six online seminars covering all aspects of Montalcino, with the help and support from 25 producers and their sangiovese wines. “Stamina and staying power: Brunello di Montalcino” will explore vintages from 2015 back to 2010 to unlock some secrets behind Brunello’s immutabilità. The webinar will welcome Conte Francesco Marone Cinzano and his Col d’Orcia Brunello di Montalcino 2015; Elisa Sesti with her Brunello di Montalcino 2015; Lucrezia Messina and Franco Pacenti’s Brunello di Montalcino 2015; Riccardo Bogi with Argiano’s Brunello di Montalcino 2014; PierAngelo Tommasi and his Casisano Brunello di Montalcino 2010.

Fortezza di Montalcino

Related – What the winemakers drink: Rosso di Montalcino

 

Anteprime di Toscana’s culminating 2020 presentation of 2018 Rosso DOC and 2015 Brunello DOCG raised the bar for Montalcino’s venerable sangiovese

 

Related – Backstage pass to Brunello di Montalcino

Post Benvenuto Brunello street party at Alle Logge di Piazza

Montalcino. Harmony and Unesco Heritage Centre of a surface area totalling 31,200 hectares, 3,660 of which are vineyards planted predominately to sangiovese. An accord of 2,100 to Brunello di Montalcino and 510 for Rosso di Montalcino, delineated and defined in consensus by the late 1990s, set into the GalestroArenaria and Calcare soils on hills and over valleys in surround of its medieval village. The merits of change, alteration or expansion have been debated, voted upon and ultimately dismissed every three years and so there has yet to pass any thought of increase or reconfiguration. Neither for Rosso nor for Brunello. 

Related – Boomers, Gen Xers and Millennials: 40 years of Brunello di Montalcino DOCG

With Conte Francesco Marone Cinzano of Col d’Orcia

Col d’Orcia

History, tradition and strutura do not dig any deeper in Montalcino than at Col d’Orcia, an Orcia Valley, (Val d’Orcia) southern slope estate in the Montalcino territory. The lineage dates back to at least 1890, when records show the Franceschi family of Florence purchased the property, then known as Fattoria di Sant’Angelo in Colle. One of two brothers Stefano Franceschi inherited the property, split from Leopoldo in 1958 and then re-named it Col d’Orcia, “{hill above Orcia” after the river that runs through the property. Franceschi later married into the royal family of the future King of Spain Juan Carlos and sold the property to the Piemontese family Cinzano in 1973. At that time only a few hectares were under vine and it was Count Alberto Marone Cinzano that pushed the reach up to 70 hectares by the early 1980s. Since then it has been Count Francesco Marone Cinzano who continued plantings to the current number at 140 hectares, 108 of which are dedicated to Brunello production.

Since August 27, 2010 the whole estate including vineyards, olive groves, other fields and even the gardens are farmed exclusively following organic agricultural practices. The vineyards are located on the southern slope of the Montalcino territory, on hilly lands and extend over 540 hectares, from the Orcia River to the village of Sant’Angelo in Colle, at about 450 metres over sea level. Cold d’Orcia’s soils are loose, skeletal and permeable, poor in clay, rich in limestone and inert materials. Fog, ice and late frosts are of little to no concern and breezes blow frequently for persistent and profitable vine health conditions. Climate is typically Mediterranean, with limited rainfalls concentrated in the months of March, April, November and December. Col d’Orcia the third largest owner of Brunello vineyards in Montalcino.

Col d’Orcia Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015

Classic closed Col d’Orcia youth, nose of earth crusted berries and not nearly the mature notes of what the future surely holds. Though meant to be consumed much earlier than Riserva or Poggio al Vento there’s no escaping the place and the winemaking ways of the house. It is truly appreciated how youth in a Col d’Orcia sangiovese does not mean chocolate or vanilla, nor any overbearing barrel notes. It does regard spice and piqued feelings that bode well for a long future. Drink 2023-2030.  Tasted February 2020

Col d’Orcia Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2014

A gregarious and sour-edged entry marks the ’14 Col d’Orcia with plenty of spice. Cinnamon and star anise are exotic notes off the top and then things turn tough and closed. This is a tightly wound 2014, clearly one of the ambitious albeit traditional attempts at perpetuating great and storied Brunello glory. Remains to be seen if it can reach the heights of 1979. Drink 2021-2031.  Tasted February 2019

Col d’Orcia Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2010

Brunello at 10 years is like the Rosso in advance and then not at all. The fruit aromas are all skin, scraped, studded and seasoned. You can feel how special the vintage phenols were and continue to be, now in their twilight of first stage freshness. It may be remembered as a vintage less than eventful but you can also make note of what must have been great bold bitters and demanding skeletal framing that kept pleasure down. Rising now, flesh in pulse and equitable tacit celebration. Heady and big Brunello from a vintage gone long on stuffing. Drink 2020-2030.  Last tasted February 2020

Col d’Orcia Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2000

So hard to know how Col d’Orcia’s Brunelli are able to glide so stealthily through time without haste and with so much slow moving grace. But here is yet another bit of restrained sangiovese power, wild of fruit heart and subtle in animal behaviour. The high acidity vintage spreads the energetic love with great and intentional fervour, showing as credibly and forcefully as could possibly have hoped or expected. Cold, cloud cover vintage does the yeoman work for sangiovese lifeblood to send it 20 years forward for all to believe. 2000, baby. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted February 2020

Col d’Orcia tasting on the ’00s

Col d’Orcia Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 1989

A huge Col d’Orcia, perhaps the biggest, broadest and most ferric I’ve ever tasted. That pool may only be 25 but this bites twice and is far from shy. It’s obviously vintage but also feels like a vintage of ambitious winemaking. The oak, oak spice, alcohol, unami and dried fruit are all fully throttled and simply add up to deliver a vibrant massive attack. Red fruit is nowhere to be found, left instead in a void filled by porcini, sanguine carne and herbal potpourri. The acidity eventually brings out more charming moments but this is really an unrelenting sangiovese. Will live 15 more years easy although there wont be the type of fruit still lingering shown by the 1979. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted February 2019

Col d’Orcia Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 1969

Tasted from three different bottles, the first showing TCA, the second alive and quiet, the third singing. Bottle variation is not surprising at all, especially in wines of this ilk and age. The family arrived at the estate in 1973 to find some vintages in barrel and this ’69 in concrete. Because the third sample was not just the best but the one with real personality we’ll just concentrate on it. The nose is very floral and full of toffee, toasted chestnut and burnt orange. The palate is lively, hopping really. A mild bitterness marks the finish, still pulsing with acidity though not with tannin. Great look back. Drink 2019-2020. Tasted February 2019

Col d’Orcia Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG Poggio Al Vento 2012

Not so surprising I suppose that Poggio al Vento 2012 is still reductive, closed and locked tight. There is a massive Poggio (al Vento) of fruit piled high inside the shell from the windy hill above the river. Fine tannins are even more impressive is the fine-styled acidity. When the shell cracks the riches will spill out, across and over. Over everything. Drink 2023-2036.  Tasted February 2019

Col d’Orcia Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG Poggio Al Vento Riserva 2010

Poggio al Vento Riserva 2010 is so very smoky and wood charred so you wonder about the fruit but air brings a fleeting glimpse of that red toned life before the wind swirls to send it back to the smoky embers beneath the roasting bones of the cinghiale. Charm in Poggio al Vento is hard to come by so early and this is far too early. The palate is richer than you think and again with wood so prevalent. There is no doubt that a wait of five more years is needed before beauty can be coaxed out of this formidable Brunello. The vintage, the vineyard and the traditional house style all conspire for this Etruscan structure, meant to impress, influence and last just long enough. Drink 2021-2031.  Tasted February 2017

Col d’Orcia Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG Poggio Al Vento Riserva 1990

Oh my word 1980 carries plenty of residual acidity in an antithetically mild, wholly and utterly unexpected way. Energy, potency, drive and this unrelenting need to express itself. Tight, taut, slinging arrows of tension that make the fruit or what’s left of it almost inconsequential. In actuality there is fruit, namely red currant, sour cherry and pomegranate. Improves with these flavours away from the clay-earthy aromatics and lingers good and plenty. Stays with you, as it has done for 40 years. Drink 2020-2023.   Tasted February 2020

Col d’Orcia Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG Poggio Al Vento Riserva 1979

Quiet, not just at first, but in continuum, a good thing with just a few initial hints of age. There can be immediate concern of this being 40 years-old. It’s hidden talents prevent you from knowing and of those, fineness of acidity is at the top of the heap. I’d say there was some astringency and mean streak tannin in the first ten years, or perhaps maybe more. It seems this Riserva was a beast for so long and only the last ten years have allowed it to deliver such gentility and charm. It’s amazing really and glad this bottle hung in there. It’s very special. In fact it’s still unfolding. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted February 2019

Sesti

Sesti

Giuseppe Sesti planted his vines at Castello di Argiano in 1991, a 13th century property with Etruscan origins just west of Sant Angelo in Colle. the estate consists of 102 hectares, of which nine hectares are planted to vineyards. The rest beiing olive groves, grazing and woodland. Now in the hands of Giuseppe Maria Sesti and Elisa Sesti, Giuseppe the astronomy expert restorer of the Castello. Elisa, born in Toscana and raised at the Castello, educated in Italy and England, returned in 1999 to help with the expansion of the family business.

Sesti Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015

Sesti’s is lightning red fruit meets high acid sangiovese for one of the lighter, brighter and sneaky powerful Brunelli. Creeps and climbs, moves, shakes and graces the palate with sharp fruit, raspberry in tang ways and then earthy, properly volatile and respectably edgy. Will seek and find balance between that tension and the other-worldly umami before too long. Drink 2022-2028.  Tasted February 2020

Sesti Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013

From Giuseppe Sesti who planted his vines at Castello di Argiano in 1991, a 13th century property with Etruscan origins just west of Sant Angelo in Colle. Now in the hands of Elisa Sesti the élevage is territorially appropriate and necessary thirty-nine months in 30 hL botti. The result is quite a gregarious one this Sesti, with really bright acids circling the sangiovese wagons and tying the fruit up in ropes and casings. You can sense the alcohol though it’s not really a heavy, pulling or dragging feeling. It persists as airy and free in spite of the early heat spikes. Should float on, through the skies for a decade or more. Classic finish of deep red cherry liqueur. Drink 2020-2031.  Tasted February 2018

Lorenzo, Lisa and Serena Pacenti (c) Franco Pacenti

Franco Pacenti

The origins of the Piacenti Family – later transformed into Pacenti – of noble Tuscan lineage, date back to the 13th century: Muccio Piacenti, maternal grandfather of the famous Santa Caterina da Siena, Patroness of Italy and Europe, was among the most popular and well-known poets of his time. As early as 1400, the Canalicchio was an important centre of reference for the agricultural market of the Val di Suga. Rosildo Pacenti, born in 1924, son of a family of peasant origins, purchased the Canalicchio farm in 1962 and is one of Montalcino’s founders and part of the Consorzio del Vino Brunello di Montalcino’s forming in 1967. Franco Pacenti was born in 1958 and joined his father in the fields and then took over in 1988. Franco’s three children, Lisa, Serena and Lorenzo, the third generatio, are the lifeblood of the company. The company’s 10 hectares of vineyards face northeast at an altitude of 300m at the foot and to the east of the Montalcino hill.

Franco Pacenti Brunello Di Montalcinio DOCG Canalicchio 2015

The Franco Pacenti Brunello 2015 is an impressive beast. A sangiovese of hearty warmth, strength and openly fragrant but edgy red fruit. This is a vintage Brunello that takes a little risk, knows the fruit has transferred over the line into a world fully phenolic, then exposed to ultra violet light. There’s no hole to fill, no barrel to overwhelm and all the best attributes to gain. So promising and exceptional. Drink 2023-2034.  Tasted February 2020

Franco Pacenti Brunello Di Montalcinio DOCG Canalicchio 2014

Clear, transparent, honest and finessed. This is what you hope for from the 2014 Brunello. The clarity here is apparent from the get go, with fruit locked and shut tight beneath a reductive shell. Acids are succulent and far from sour, tannins pure, sweet and of the finest grain. Not about concentration because the vintage will resist allowing it. But this is made in the best possible way and will live a few decades or more. Drink 2024-2038.  Tasted February 2019

Franco Pacenti Brunello Di Montalcinio DOCG Rosildo 2015

If the 2015 Annata from Franco Pacenti was the bomb then what does that make the Vigna Rosildo? Excuse my English but this Rosildo is the shit. The great shit. Grande. Rosildo fineness is that of regal sangiovese style. Acid, tannin, structure, all together seamless and hungry to integrate simpler parts, make them complex and whole. Here is what should and must be considered one of the wines of the vintage. Drink 2024-2038.  Tasted February 2020

Looking south towards Monte Amiata

Argiano

Wine cellar since 1580. With five centuries in place and 130 years of Brunello making history on side Argiano is the model of Montalcino consistency. The name is thought to derive from the first settlements in Roman times – ‘Ara Janus’, referring to the god Janus. Another potential origin could be ‘the land of the River Orcia’ – known in ancient times as ‘Orgia’ and therefore Argiano. The estate vineyards benefit from a micro-climate situated between Poggio alla Mura and Sant Angelo in Colle on a plateau at 300m.

Argiano practices an organic and sustainable method of agriculture. Since 2019 Argiano is the first company in Montalcino to become plastic-free. All single-use plastics have been eliminated. The team consists of CEO & Winemaker Bernardino Sani; Agronomist & COO Francesco Monari; Cellar master Adriano Bambagioni; Winemaking assistant Roberto Caporossi; and Sales Manager Riccardo Bogi.

Argiano Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015

Argiano goes all in for this sumptuous and unctuous ’15 of fruit, earth and acids long, sharp, linear and long, Big expressive and chocolaty sangiovese with wood a major factor and structure a fact of the matter. All purpose Brunello and so bloody effective. Drink 2022-2027.  Tasted February 2020

Argiano Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2014

Argiano is expressive of a lovely herbal nose with blood orange and a little bit of sanguine personality. Typical vintage character done right, proper and well. Fleshy like a very ripe peach crossed with a tart red plum and certainly offers more of the it Brunello character than many or most in the field. A bit commercial for the house but understood of a vintage clarity and appreciated out of great necessity. Drink 2021-2027.  Tasted February 2019

Argiano Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013

With five centuries in place and 130 years of Brunello making history on side Argiano is the model of Montalcino consistency. The estate vineyards benefit from a micro-climate situated between Poggio alla Mura and Sant Angelo in Colle on a plateau at 300m. In 2013 a stolen vintage warmth is readily apparent on the nose, with a fine elemental streak through thick air willing and able to carry this sangiovese through its formative years. The palate and texture are next to brilliant with the great feeling of plush, silken tapestry, woven for complexity and thinking about the future. Drink 2020-2029.  Tasted February 2018

Argiano Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Vigna Del Suolo 2015

The vineyard down below is appositely named in apropos significance because the sentiment is high, lightning struck and quick as a whip. Crunchy and earthy fruit is ripe and near delirious, tripping the lights and adding fantasy to an already heady if effusive substance fantastic. So much going on in complex waves, severities and notions. Will transfer and oscillate, groove and titillate for a decade to come. Drink 2022-2031.  Tasted February 2020

Casisano Estate

Tomassi – Casisano

The Casisano estate lies on a natural terrace at 480 meters above sea level, overlooking the south-eastern zone of the Montalcino region, eight kilometres south of the town in Sant’Angelo in Colle and facing the Abbey of Sant’Antimo. The soils are made up of sandstone rocks and schistous marl containing stones, clay, and tuff of volcanic origin. The estate covers an area of 53 hectares, of which 22 are vineyards and 8 are olive groves. Nine hectares are dedicated to the production of Brunello, seven hectares to Rosso, and the other six hectares to the Sant’ Antimo denomination. At a near 500m the vineyards benefit from temperature swings and the necessity of prevailing cool winds from the sea to the west. Casisano is entirely planted with Sangiovese Grosso and Colombaiolo is the Riserva Brunello, after the family purchased the estate in 2011, though a wine has been made from Colombaiolo fruit since 1996. The vineyard was planted in 1991 on a hectare and a half on the Sant’Angelo in Colle estate. 

The oenologists are Giancarlo Tommasi and Emiliano Falsini. Pierangelo Tommasi is the Executive Director of Tommasi Family Estates. He is one of nine members of the current fourth generation of this historic winemaking family, six of whom run the wine business and two of whom run hospitality. Pierangelo gets to work in Montalcino. Lucky guy.

Vineyards at Casisano

Tommasi Casisano Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015

A lightning red fruit Brunello out of 2015 from Tommasi’s Casisano with tight acids and a lightness that allows for a breath of fresh Brunello air. A thriller this one, not a killer and blessed with ease of amenability. Tannins build with more strength then expected though ultimately speaking the heights are scaled early and no great amount of time is needed to make headway with this wine. Terrific first five years sangiovese, for food expected and wholly unexpected ways. Drink 2021-2025.  Tasted February 2020

Tommasi Casisano Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013

The Casisano Estate is found eight kilometres south of the town in Sant’Angelo in Colle, incidentally of population 204, as noted by a 2011 census. At 500m the vineyards benefit from temperature swings and the necessity of prevailing cool winds from the sea to the west. The Brunello developed here (like Ragnaie) turns out classic red clay and stone derived deep cherry liqueur but of a constitution and flavour unlike any other sangiovese on earth. It’s almost brambly and even a bit scorched. It’s rich, proper and righteous. Best of all, the best years still lay ahead. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted March 2018

Tommasi Casisano Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2012

From Casisano in Sant’Angelo in Colle, to the south of the village. Tomassi’s Montalcino situation is another one of altitude and therefore a great choice of location from which to develop a strong and structured Brunello ideal. This ’12 is not unlike the ’13 but perhaps with a bit more hyperbole, at times of warmth and at others, elegance. It’s not completely sure of its position, but that is both a matter of vintage and still getting to know the lay of this land. The follow-up 2013 will continue to cement the altitude influence and the understanding of these exceptional vineyards. This ’12 is a great building block for the future of what will be one of the more storied cru in Brunello di Montalcino. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted March 2018

Tommasi Casisano Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2011

This Brunello organizer is the Tommasi family from Verona and their Montalcino foray. Though not the easist of the Brunello vintages this 2011 from Casisano takes what is given and delivers a classic rendition from traditional motives. There is some dried plum and fig fruit, slightly baked and certainly firm to match the tannic structure of the vintage. This will shrivel into dried goods, mushroom and balsamic territory before too long. Drink now for fresh results and later for a much more old school way. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted March 2017

Tommasi Casisano Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG Colombaiolo 2013

From Tommasi this is only the third Riserva after the family purchased the estate in 2011, though a wine has been made from Colombaiolo fruit since 1996. The vineyard was planted in 1991 on a hectare and a half on the Sant’Angelo in Colle Casisano estate. The fruit is quite variegated, full and ripe. The acids are supportive, on the high-toned side and the tannins are really fine. A nice balance and a tri-symbiotic relationship exists between the three friends and in the end a structure of fine accord is managed. Drink 2021-2027.  Tasted February 2019

Good to go!

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Decades old Brunello di Montalcino

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WineAlign

Ready for a long-term relationship? Brunello di Montalcino Vigna and Riserva

 

A four vintage vertical look at age-worthy, single-vineyard and Riserva Brunello di Montalcino

These are the sangiovese the agronomist and the oenologist spend their most time with, from vineyard work, by grape ferments and through botti epochs that receive the most nurturing and care. Montalcino’s Vigna and Riserva will change a winemaker, either for better or for worse and they are also the ones that will stand the test of time. The question worth posing to these Montalcinese makers is why? What makes that vineyard block so special and for wines already aged longer than most, why go even longer, sometimes five years further in wood? What is the impetus for it being better to be a thinking monk than a post-modern thinker?

Related – What the winemakers drink: Rosso di Montalcino

The answers may be forthcoming on Thursday, November 26, 2020 when I play host and moderator for the fourth of six online seminars covering all aspects of Montalcino, with the help and support from 25 producers and their sangiovese wines. “Ready for a long-term relationship? Brunello di Montalcino Vigna and Riserva” will travel back from 2015 to 2012 to see how vintage, elévage and specific vineyard blocks intertwine to create Brunello’s most structured sangiovese. The webinar will welcome winemaker Tomasso Cortonesi and his Cortonesi I Poggiarelli Brunello di Montalcino 2015; Francesca Bindocci with the Franceschi family’s and also her father’s (Consorzio President Fabrizio Bindocci) Il Poggione Brunello di Montalcino 2014; Giorgio Masellis for Consorzio Vice-President Riccardo Talenti’s Brunello di Montalcino Riserva Pian di Conte 2013; Alessandra Angelini with hers and her mother Elisabetta Gnudi Angelini’s Caparzo Brunello di Montalcino Vigna La Casa 2012.

The hill that is Montalcino. The look that is Godello. The argilo of the northern vineyards #tuttoèpossibile

Vigna or cru wines have increasingly become the most talked about sangiovese within the trilogy comprised of Brunello, Vigna and Riserva. They are the territory’s answer to any question that prods or provokes a discussion regarding sub-zones and menzione geografica, a.k.a. MGAs. Chianti Classico as an example is delineated by eight communes and while the system is far from perfect, thinking about sub-zones by commune is a natural way to divide up the territory. Montalcino is really one entity and not all that large a zone as a whole. There are villages and hamlets scattered about and within but to say that all the vineyards in and around say Sant’Angelo in Colle produce Brunello with similar characteristics is just not possible. It would be like saying all Champagne made near Mesnil-sur-Oger should be classified together but it can’t be done and that is why Champagne opts for Premier Cru and Grand Cru designations. But Montalcino is not in need of any new or imagined such rankings. What would it offer the community as a whole that it does not already have?

Related – Backstage pass to Brunello di Montalcino

The regulations governing wine production dictate that the maximum production of grapes per hectare must be less than eight tons per hectare (approximately 52 hl/ha of wine). It also dictates the date of the wine being released onto the market, which is January 1st of the fifth year after harvesting. During this long period, the wine must spend at least two years in wooden barrels and age at least four months in the bottle. The Riserva wine must age at least six months in the bottle and is released a year later onto the market. To many Montalcino winemakers Riserva translates to “I’ll simply rack the wine from barrel and bottle it when ready.” In some cases that means releasing a Riserva in the seventh or eighth year, perhaps even further after harvesting.

Related – Boomers, Gen Xers and Millennials: 40 years of Brunello di Montalcino DOCG

Related – Benvenuto Brunello 2020: Montalcino surges ahead

I recently asked a gaggle of Montalcino producers the pressing question on elévage.

How or why did 12 or 24 months, or in rare cases, 60-plus months further become the defined reason for how to make and qualify Riserva?

Lorenzo Magnelli, Le Chiuse: “We release our Riserva 60 months later than our Regular Brunello because I believe it helps the wine to get a stronger identity from Brunello showing a better balance and more complexity. Brunello Riserva, it’s not the wine that you want to drink young, in this way you really can’t.”

Riccardo Talenti, Talenti: “As a philosophy we do not exceed 36/40 months of aging for the Riservas and we do not produce the Riserva every year, but only in vintages that we believe have high aging potential, making a selection of barrels from the vineyards around the company positioned at 400 meters.”

Elisa Fanti – Tenuta Fanti: “The Riserva is a selection of the best Sangiovese in the vineyard. This Sangiovese, in the beautiful vintage, probably has a big structure, complexity and acidity and it is necessary for more time of aging (in the oak or in the bottle), to have an important wine with all its aromatics feature well integrated.”

Stefano Cinelli Colombini, Fattoria dei Barbi: “In my opinion any true Brunello is at his best between eight and 20 years, it is due to the peculiar character of the Montalcino Sangiovese grapes.”

Riccardo Campinoti, Le Ragnaie: “I am not a big Riserva guy, I keep all my wines three years in barrel and I think it’s enough. I much rather prefer single vineyard expression, I keep my best sites for single vineyards. Lately I prefer colder vintages. Warm vintages are too extreme and the wines are not that interesting.”

Conte Francesco Marone Cinzano, Col d’Orcia: “When my father arrived at Col d’Orcia in 1973 he found wine in the large barrels dating back to vintage 1968 (60 month). This was the tradition in Montalcino and still is the practice at Col d’Orcia when a vintage requires it.”

Donatella Cinelli Colombini, Casato Prime Donne: “The Brunello Riserva is born in the vineyard, not in the cellar. The clusters must have grapes that are very small, perfect in health and with thin skins. In other words we cannot produce Riserva with just any old cluster of Sangiovese. For this reason the amount of Brunello Riserva we make increases or diminishes, and so aggravates my sales office. Obviously the perfect grapes create wines that need a longer stay in barrel and then in bottle.”

Giacomo Neri, Casanova di Neri: “We do not produce Riserva, our Brunelli at most spend 42 months in wood. Brunello Cerretalto comes out in the sixth year but with twelve more months raised in the bottle.”

Filippo Chia, Castello di Romitorio: “Sangiovese is a very finicky grape that is really tied to the climatic conditions of the vintage, every so often in great vintages its power and abundance can withstand additional ageing in oak, large or small, and most producers tend to go to bottle sooner in order to avoid keeping the wine in stainless steel or wood for too long.  Usually it’s a barrel selection and when tasting the wines it is apparent when you can make a Riserva without cannibalizing your “Vigna” and without over-oaking and oxidizing the wine. Therefore normally only the very best and most balanced and structured fruit can give way to a Riserva.”

Francesco Ripaccioli, Canalicchio di Sopra: “The oak is not an ingredient. It’s a kneading for the wine.”

Tommaso Cortonesi, Cortonesi – La Mannella: “The Production Requirements ask for 24 months minimum for Brunello Riserva, but many wineries do a much longer wood aging. We do 48 months in large barrels and our Brunello Riserva is only produced in the best vintages from our oldest vineyard in La Mannella.”

Cortonesi and Cortonesi

Cortonesi

Cortonesi’s estate base is at La Mannella, down on the flats just below and to the northeast of the Montalcino hill. Tommaso Cortonesi also farms a second block, the single-vineyard sangiovese I Poggiarelli from the warmer, southern part of Montalcino at 420m of elevation quite near to Biondi-Santi.

Tommaso Cortonesi is a young superstar full of spirit who knows and understands the beauty and enchantment of wine. Sangiovese that gives you the feeling of having come through a storm because of simple wines that make you happy with the present moment. Also complex wines of great functionality, pragmatism and all due to great work ethic. Tommaso completed his tenure as a Vice-President of the Consorzio Vino Brunello di Montalcino but just watch his father pumping juice at dusk in October and you will understand all there is to know about this family and their dedication to Montalcino. The future is here, in these hands, with great humility, ethos and promise.

With Tommaso Cortonesi

Cortonesi La Mannella Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2018

Tommaso Cortonesi’s Rosso ’18 is pure La Mannella, expressly northeasterly Montalcino and bright as a February Benvenuto Brunello day. Crunchy and raised with all the land caught inside, the fruit expressive and elastic, the finish blessed with just a few years notability by structure. Promising and effective, proper and precise. Still showing some wood so wait a year. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted February 2020

Cortonesi La Mannella Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2017

Lovely aromatics, sexy and spicy, plenty of spice cupboard, herbs and flowers. Smell the argileux and the small rocks littering the vineyards. Tells a story of place so succinctly and what’s coming over the next few years. Sweet acids balance and foil drying tannins for classically trained and executed Rosso. Drink 2020-2024.  Tasted February 2019

Cortonesi La Mannella Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2016

Not simply freshness but unction, fruit culpability and basic perfection. The young vines of five years are just now coming into their speciality, that being quality fruit meeting and melting into more than a modicum of grip and structure. You could pour this Rosso for young Brunello seekers and old Rosso knowers. It will solicit and win over their collective hearts.  Last tasted October 2019

#tommaso @cortonesi_wine @brunellodimontalcino

Cortonesi La Mannella Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015

Tommaso Cortonesi’s 2015 Brunello is a ruby-red, spice studded star in 2015, high-toned and so very expressive. What spice oh my, what tripping fantastic light across the tongue and so very taut in its youth. Intensity does not begin to explain the freshness and the youthful nature of its being. Need to revisit La Mannella in one year and the 2015 sangiovese it has gifted in five years or so.  Last tasted February 2020

I’d like to say the tannins on 2015 Annata are sneaky but they are so much more than that. These are grippy, layered and nearly formidable tannins. Good thing the easy, generous and lush fruit is somehow capable of defending itself. Boom this is one of Tommaso Cortonesi’s most accomplished Annata and more capable of aging than even he would probably have guessed he was making. Power and beauty. This is that and more. Drink 2021-2031.  Tasted October 2019

Cortonesi La Mannella Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2014

Like the same vintage Rosso the Brunello is showing with perked up freshness and almost no development. Slavonian oak and just the right amount of time has elevated the game and brought all the parts into line. There’s fresh porcini in this moment so no matter that Tommaso found none on a quick forage today. Good earth and crunch from in depth older vines construction and very impressive length. Fine quality for 2014 from a producer to look for when adversity tests your mettle.  Last tasted October 2019

Cortonesi works through the challenge with a sangiovese in 2014 that finds critical mass and therefore celebrates la vita bella in Brunello. With no reason to choose a Vigna-designate nor a Riserva to produce, the best of the best therefore finds its way into this eponymous family Brunello. It’s equipped with notable vintage fruit, finer acids than many and a tannic structure that is not only correct but highly promising. Lengthiness is one of the best in the vintage. Drink 2023-2031.  Tasted February 2019

Cortonesi La Mannella Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013

The vintage posed more than one problem but success has been won by the Montalcino producer who after the heat waited out the rain, followed by a few weeks of settling and thus allowed their grapes to complete the phenolic journey. Case in point Tommaso Cortonesi’s 2013, a modern, many steps forward taken Brunello with little to no fear of a world hard to figure. It remains calm and focused in light of the challenging vintage. The fruit is intensely driven, the acidity equally so and the finale a continuance of linger in the face of great tension and demand. A northern location and an expertly farmed estate block (as opposed to single-vineyard) is the catalyst to this ’13’s success. The composure and details of minutiae acquiesced add up to a fine effort, not presently a matter of delicasse but certainly a result that is sure and exacting. This will be one of those fortunate Brunelli built to outlast a bigger group conjoined by jammy fruit, green tannin and astringency. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted February 2018

Cortonesi La Mannella Brunello Di Montalcino I Poggiarelli 2015

Skipping straight pass and over the sunless, tenebrous and obscured 2014 vintage it is this Tommaso Cortonesi 2015 I Poggiarelli that rises from the vineyard looking up the Montalcino hill to the southeastern side. Te offer is an ulterior one, an expression in contrast to what comes from northerly La Mannella. Warmer, fuller and without question more precise. Cortonesi has used the tools available to provide it a bigger architectural frame and the flesh of this vineyard dutifully abides, bedecking the incrustation of the facade and adorning the fills of the interior. Quite structured and yet fully fleshy of 2015 density and weight. Impressive stuff from Tommaso. Drink 2022-2032.  Tasted February 2020

Cortonesi La Mannella Brunello Di Montalcino I Poggiarelli 2013

Tommaso Cortonesi’s Brunello from a single-vineyard at 420m hails from the southeast section of Montalcino. Warmth is not the only advantage/alternative to growing conditions but also soil which is rocky and rich in marl, as opposed to the clay-sandstone earth of the northern vineyards. The expectation persists for richer, deeper and darker, at least in terms of fruit. There is in fact this aphasic maroon sensation felt at the heart of the Poggiarelli matter. The rocks are so important to the southern vines, notably Galestro because it streaks through the tenebrous dimension with a clarity of cool savour. Power is kept in tow so that notes in mind of things like svelte and grace are given due consideration. This southern slice shows Tommaso’s specific mentality, as will the other, but here it’s one of care and precision. Poggiarelli as a cru is not La Mannella, but they are inextricably tied together by their one maker. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted March 2018

Cortonesi La Mannella Brunello Di Montalcino I Poggiarelli 2012

This is Cortonesi’s single-vineyard sangiovese from the warmer, southern part of Montalcino at 420m of elevation. Expectation allows for deeper, and darker yet the display comes without the La Mannella block crimson and cimmerian variegation, perhaps instead more like the single-brushstroke, dark side of dusk angle created by a fuzzy, warm blend of fiery colours. More Galestro soil influence here as opposed to clay at La Mannella and two years in part new French tonneaux followed by stainless steel vats. A deferential élevage to the one exercised with La Mannella and one to encourage depth and structure without too much power. Classic, modern, elegant and an apple to La Mannella’s orange. Drink 2019-2025.   Tasted February 2017

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Cortonesi La Mannella Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2012

La Mannella Riserva ’12 is composed of grapes taken from the oldest vines though by a predetermined decision communicated to the consorzio one year before release, whether it turns out to be a vintage from which a Riserva is made or not. This is an essential rule that prohibits producers from not giving a wine an identity. Riserva is a completely different wine than the Annata, as always with more mature notes though here in salumi hyperbole, long aging oak spice and fruit elongation. Cortonesi’s spent four years in large Slavonian oak barrels and at this five point five year mark it turns to wild strawberry, chocolate and cocoa. It’s both elegant and taut while just now beginning to stretch its legs. Even if you can’t quite imagine or envision what will be, there has to be some level of blind-spotting or just plain denial to not see this is as pure magic. Drink 2022-2034.  Tasted March 2018

Cortonesi La Mannella Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2010

Now talking post-aggressive behaviour in Riserva not yet advanced ahead of time. There are secondary aromatic hints but the tannins remain in tact, charged and controlling. There’s a circular motion happening hear as fruit and acidity whirl around, outrunning the tannins or at least attempting to. All the sweet things that grow wild and are picked to accent your braises are swirled into the aromatic potpourri of this fine sangiovese of whispers, shadows and silhouettes. It’s a chiaroscuro of a Brunello, all in and we are in turn fully engaged.  Last tasted October 2019

Il Poggione

The story of Tenuta Il Poggione began at the end of the 19th century when Lavinio Franceschi, a landowner from Scandicci, near Florence decided to purchase the estate. Today Tenuta Il Poggione is one of Montalcino’s largest wineries covering an area of 600 hectares, of which 125 hectares are planted with vines. The vineyards are at an altitude between 150 and 450 metres, including Vigna Paganelli, planted in 1964, benefitting from the proximity of Mount Amiata and the Tyyrhenian Sea. Lavinio’s work was carried on through Leopoldo and Livia, followed by current generation Leopoldo Franceschi. In Montalcino Il Poggione is synonymous with the hilltop hamlet of Sant’Angelo in Colle and Consorzio President Fabrizio Bindocci is arguably the “King of Sant’Angelo in Colle.” Since 1999, Bindocci has been General Manager of the Franceschi family’s Il Poggione, for which he has worked since 1976. He was elected in the spring of 2019 and will serve in the position through 2021. Bindocci believes in focusing on and investing in the younger generation.

With Christopher Sealy, Alo Restaurant and Fabrizio Bindocci, President of the Consorzio Vino Brunello di Montalcino

Il Poggione Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2018

Top quality reach in expertly crafted ubiquity makes this a Rosso from the brightly lit vintage for all to explore. Take this road oft taken and use it to gain understanding of the DOC, the village and the ways of local sangiovese. High toned, generously oak spiced and really transparent. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted February 2020

Il Poggione Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2015

Refined and expertly executed if on the side where acidity really makes a play for queen in this Rosso. In a matter for when fruit so red, smoky and ripe is up to the balancing task. Another Rosso that just kills it for the vintage. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted February 2017

Il Poggione Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015

Il Poggione’s tells a Brunello vendemmia tale, in delivery of that vintage’s generous fruit, followed by a generosity of barrel and all the spice it can carry forward. High constituent parts, syncopated for possibility and most likely, probability. That says age will not catch up to a wine of great health because it was taken care of and will continue to take care of itself. You should pay it the same respect. Drink 2021-2027.  Tasted February 2020

Il Poggione Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2014

This is found to be a dense, compressed and intense sangiovese and as a result the tannins are quite formidable at this youthful early stage of its evolution. Nothing says strutura like this angular and impressive Brunello but anything less than five years of patience will do little to offer an immediate or near-term reward. Plus the necessity for fruit longevity is part of the package of hope. Drink 2021-2029.  Tasted February 2018

Talenti

Talenti

“Everything starts from the Pian di Conte estate.” That is where Pierluigi Talenti moved from Romagna to set up shop. Today, his grandson Riccardo Talenti runs the winery and continues to tirelessly research so that he can make some of Montalcino’s most important sangiovese. “Pian di Conte” is a stone’s thrown from Sant’Angelo in Colle, on the southern slope of the Montalcino hill and occupies a total of 40 hectares. The vineyards are divided into eleven different plots, each with different altitude, exposure and soil composition.

Talenti’s Brunello and Rosso come from vines in Sant’Angelo in Colle and Castelnuovo dell’Abate, a selection of sangiovese grown in estate-owned vineyards situated on the south-easterly and south-westerly slopes of the municipality of Montalcino, at altitudes carrying from 250 to 400 metres above sea level. The Brunelli spend over two years ageing in fine Allier and Slavonian oak. Pian del Conte is a Riserva from the oldest vineyards, near the centre of the estate (400m above sea level) and only made in exceptional years. Selezione Piero comes from two of the 20 estate hectares in Castelnuovo dell’Abate dedicated to the vineyard Paretaio, planted to a sangiovese clone selected by Pierluigi Talenti.

With Riccardo Talenti

Talenti Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015

Riccardo Talenti’s Brunello is always a combinative, bringing together of double entendre ideals in the name of achieving the great estate balance. Fruit for the sangiovese comes from vineyards both southwest and southeast of Montalcino, aging is done 60-40 in 500L tonneaux and grandi botti of French and Slavonian oak. The vintage that does it all, a largesse of fresh fruit, the earth liquified in sand, clay, Galestro mineral and finally, the most stretched and generous tannin imaginable. The pinnacle and epitome of professionally executed high quality Brunello that never abandons its sense of place. Drink 2022-2030.  Tasted February 2020

Talenti Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2014

Here comes a sangiovese with swagger and confidence born and bred out of understanding and finesse. Sweet rose and violet candied floral fruit gives way to a caressing palate of fine acids and some of the vintage’s finer tannin. Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted February 2019

Talenti Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013

Talenti’s Annata comes from vineyards in the area of Castelnuovo dell’Abate and like the Rosso but 10 times more concentrated and focused this is sangiovese of a most intense aromatic, flavourful and textured liqueur. Cherries never came swelling and macerating so succinctly pure and fascinating as they do here, taking every advantage of vintage and how it works in conjunction with place. This is what happens when vines spend long hours in an arid yet humid place to develop grapes for the purpose of variegation and structure. The layers will take two years to peel away and expose the true character, followed by five more for a classic transparency of expression. Talent’s 2013 builds like a jet engine preparing the craft for take-off. The two years will pass and you’ll then feel the angle skywards while you press back in your seat. This is the effect created by truly tactile Brunello. Drink 2020-2028.  Tasted March 2018

Talenti Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG Pian Di Conte 2015

A Sant’Angelo in Colle viilage treasure is this Riserva made from fruit grown on estate vines at 400m just northwest of the administrative frazione. There is so much wine, substance and intensity at play in this near massive 2015. It is one with a soft core in its heart and so you can imagine the elasticity, nimble agility and the incredible length that will be the matter when the time comes to right. That fruition is at least five if not to be 10 years away. So much fruit from which tonneaux, grandi botti and variegated soils support the idea. Drink 2025-2035.  Tasted February 2020

Talenti Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG Pian Di Conte 2013

A Sant’Angelo in Colle treasure is this Riserva made from fruit grown at 400m nearby. One year later the fruit just seems to rise, swell and flesh with great fervour.  Last tasted February 2020

Pian di Conte is only made in the worthiest of years from a select curation of grapes, much like Piero that comes off of 20-plus year-old vines out of two highly specific blocks on 20 hectares in Castelnuovo dell’Abate. At 400m of altitude it is the special vineyard Paretaio, planted to a sangiovese clone selected by Pierluigi Talenti. The ’13 Riserva exhibits that combination of wise and stylish, a well-dressed and seasoned veteran Brunello with expertise born of talent and ethic. The acids are some of the most succulent for 2013 Riserva, surrounding, lifting and extolling the virtues of a well-executed harvest. The texture meets the architecture in a seamless transition though not without that notable crossroads of tension-welling acidity and tannin. Impressive wine. Drink 2023-2036.  Tasted February 2019

Talenti Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG Pian Di Conte 2012

Two of the 20 estate hectares in Castelnuovo dell’Abate are dedicated to the the vineyard Paretaio, planted to a sangiovese clone selected by Pierluigi Talenti. Pian di Conte is only made in years deemed worthy of carefully selected grapes from 20-plus year-old vines out of this highly specific, 400m of altitude micro-climate block. It’s a wow Riserva from 2012, perfumed with classic extra time in barrel that Annata Brunello only seems to reach. Notes like dark berries, pipe smoulder and rich ganache, the 2012 is already showing some maturity signs of integration. It’s a fineness of tart dark citrus styled-sangiovese wrapped so tightly around the structure’s finger, indelibly inked, modern and with all parts fine-tuned in synchronicity. Riservas will often sting until they pass at least a ten-year mark but Talenti’s croons romantically with stand-up base note ease. For Montalcino it’s a hit of the vintage and to it I can safely say “I can see the destiny you sold turned into a shining band of gold.”  Drink 2020-2030. Tasted March 2018

Vigna La Casa, Montalcino

Caparzo

Caparzo is located in the north of Montalcino where you can find the famous Montosoli hill and cru and is owned by Elisabetta Gnudi Angelini. The Caparzo Brunello is the label with the signature of Elisabetta Gnudi, an anniversary wine that spends three years in botti grandi. From the south-facing vineyard on the north quadrant of Montalcino is the single-vineyard La Casa, true ambasciatore of Caparzo’s Galestro-dominant terroir and residing next to sister Vigna Brunello Montosoli which is bottled under the Altesino label. 

Elisabetta’s daughter Alessandra Angelini earned her undergraduate degree in Aerospace Engineering from La Sapienza University in Romeand participated in research projects designing Formula 1 cars and racing dinghies. In 2013, she began working for Rolls Royce North America designing airplane engines. In 2008 she was a member of the Italian Olympic Sailing team. She returned to the family business of wine and hospitality in 2017.

Caparzo Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2018

Though the fruit source is an amalgamation of Montalcino in a multi-disparate form you can’t help but feel or at least sense the Galestro of Montosoli young vines making their way into this Rosso. Wet stone, crumbled earth’s elements and a crust of decomposition meets the cherries head on for a salty and sharp sangiovese. Really proper wine here. You know it, I know it, they will know it. Drink 2021-2027.  Tasted February 2020

Caparzo Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2016

As in the Caparzo 2015 in Brunello the fruit bounds forward with red juiciness that Rosso di Montalcino raised in Grandi Botti will do from a gathering of fruit wide ranging in scope. Once again the vivid and bright acidity takes on citrus and sweet herbs but there’s a darker feel to this 2016. Raised on promises perhaps but after all, she was, a Montalcino girl. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted October 2019

Caparzo Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015 

Caparzo is surely driven by the wood it spends quality time in getting to know and the material sent to those barrels is up to the mixing and swirling task. You understand this fruit and its dark cherry upbringing. You inuit the way vessels work through the pores while acidity flushes and raises the level of ability. Finally you get to know these sweet tannic grains and chains that work magic for the fruit. Will all come together soon, or at least sooner than many vintages. Drink 2021-2028.  Tasted February 2020

Caparzo Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2014

Caparzo’s is blessed with a sweet aromatic perfume, at once exotic but also different. At first it’s almost as if it strikes like riesling with botrytis-affected fruit notes but no, it’s more about flowers and fruit on the ripe side of life. The fruit is drawn from a few Montalcino poles but the southern blocks are what try hardest to keep it balanced. In the end it’s highly consumable, commercial and drinkable. Drink 2020-2024.  Tasted February 2019

Caparzo Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013

The Caparzo Brunello 2013 is the label with the signature of Elisabetta Gnudi, a celebratory anniversary wine that spent three years in botti grandi. Caparzo’s Classic sangiovese gathers fruit from several sources, including the northern vineyard where La Casa is borne. This deep inhalant and liqueur also delves into earthly sand, Galestro and clay microbes in which earth and fruit challenge the notion of complexity and to which direction it pulls the senses. The earthy funk sifted though black cherry rich and always fresh and elegant fruit assumptions tells us this is part of the vintage package. High acidity into slightly volatile air confirms and eventually carries the visa to conform. Drying tannins are not a huge surprise considering the pressing matters of this wine. The low alcohol, easy to access, fresh and fleshy sangiovese carries a feeling, final and calm. Lovely wine. Drink 2020-2026.  Tasted twice, February 2018

Caparzo Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG La Casa 2015

The ripeness of La Casa in 2015 is at the precipice if not the next step where denouement begins in descent. The aromas are quite fine and discreet while the flavours pool in a deep well of full on berry and plum, dusty and of a twinge that’s Ribena in twangy tang. It is what it is, this version of gregarious 2015, seemingly easy and generous but the pick was all you had. Great La Casa is spot on. This one misses by a hair. Drink 2020-2024.  Tasted February 2020

Caparzo Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG La Casa 2013

Tasting Caparzo’s home block Vigna La Casa 2013 this young may be even more difficult an assessment than looking at 2012 this time last year. But if noting what a year further in bottle did for that 2012 than some plenitude must be afforded the more confounding 2013. From the south-facing vineyard on the north quadrant of Montalcino, La Casa sits next to sister Montosoli (Altesino) and its pure fruit doles out high-level Montalcino elegance and in more ways than the normale Caparzo. It also behaves with more calm and collected demeanour. Though reduced with early bite and taut finings this is clearly a very refined Caparzo for the people. Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted February 2018

Caparzo Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG La Casa 2012

From the south-facing vineyard on the north quadrant of Montalcino, quicker to amalgamate and settle than many in the region, the ’12 single-vineyard La Casa is a true ambasciatore of Caparzo terroir, rich and regaling but lithe and elegant. If you are trying to gain an understanding of the Caparzo way this is the place to start, in 2012, from a living, breathing Vigna, out of the storied vineyard. Perfume and finesse are special and this is how it’s done, without pretension and with class. So much to learn from an extra year in bottle. Drink 2019-2026.  Last tasted February 2018

Caparzo’s Vigna La Casa is quite rich and more approachable than many at such an early stage with the home vineyard ready to provide both the beauty and the stuffing almost before you realize you can sit down with a bottle to enjoy. It is refreshing to take a Vigna-designate bottle and be offered the immediacy of fruit though La Casa is more than capable with structure to take it through a five year primary stage. Some interest will develop after that but these early years will be the best. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted February 2017

Good to go!

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What the winemakers drink: Rosso di Montalcino

Culturally speaking Rosso di Montalcino is the most important wine: It’s what the Montalcinese drink daily

It’s a Monday night, a winemaker’s night off. There is work to be done in the morning so it wouldn’t be prudent to drink anything heavy or expensive. What to open? The answer is obvious and easy. Rosso di Montalcino. More than one Montalcino winemaker has used the phrase “it’s what we like to drink” and just as many will tell you that Rosso must reflect sangiovese’s character more than any other wine. What we know is that the Rosso are the protagonists of the new market. On Monday, November 23, 2020 I will play host and moderator for the third of six online seminars covering all aspects of Montalcino, with the help and support from 25 producers and their sangiovese wines. “What the winemakers drink: Rosso di Montalcino” will celebrate the region’s young sangiovese. The webinar will welcome winemaker and Consorzio Vice-President Giacomo Bartolommei with his Caprili Rosso 2018; Brunello, Montepulciano and Chianti Classico producer Antonio Michael Zaccheo Jr. and his Carpineto Rosso 2016; Robin Shay of San Polo with their Rosso 2017; and for comparison, Alessandra Angelini be will showing her Altesino Brunello 2015.

Related – Backstage pass to Brunello di Montalcino

#torrecampanaria

Montalcino. Harmony and Unesco Heritage Centre of a surface area totalling 31,200 hectares, 3,660 of which are vineyards planted predominately to sangiovese. An accord of 2,100 to Brunello di Montalcino and 510 for Rosso di Montalcino, delineated and defined in consensus by the late 1990s, set into the GalestroArenaria and Calcare soils on hills and over valleys in surround of its medieval village. The merits of change, alteration or expansion have been debated, voted upon and ultimately dismissed every three years and so there has yet to pass any thought of increase or reconfiguration. Neither for Rosso nor for Brunello. Montalcino. Village at 564 metres above sea level and many vineyards reside at a similar altitude. Plots, blocks and Italy’s most famous village overlooking great swaths of rolling valleys; Asso, Orcia, Arbia, Ombrone. The first known wine label dates back to the 1800s and the DOC was recognized in 1966. Brunello was afforded DOCG status in 1980, Italy’s first, followed by Rosso as a DOC in 1984.

Related – Boomers, Gen Xers and Millennials: 40 years of Brunello di Montalcino DOCG

 

What we know is that the Rosso are the protagonists of the new market

 

Related – Benvenuto Brunello 2020: Montalcino surges ahead

Brunello’s maximum yields are eight tonnes per hectare (approximately 52 hl/ha of wine) and the aging requirement is five years (six for Riserva), of which two must be in oak barrels, followed by four months in bottle. It may be introduced to market on January 1st of the 5th year after harvest (January 1st of the 6th year for Riserva). Rosso’s maximum yields are nine tonnes per hectare and it may be introduced to market on September 1st of the year after harvest. There are nine million bottles of Brunello and half that of Rosso produced on average each year. More than a quarter are certified organic and/or biodynamic and that is double as compared to just five years ago. Seventy per cent of the wines are exported. Current vintages on the market are 2015 for Brunello, 2018 for Rosso.

The most fascinating thing about Rosso di Montalcino is that every producer has a unique philosophy and a personal relationship with the appellative wine. To some it persists in the old-school way, that is to think of it as a “baby Brunello,” or second wine, if you will. The days of Rosso being considered only in this way are long past. The baby Brunello concept now acquiesces to the notion of Rosso strictly made for Rosso, with great purpose and also meaning. There are some Rosso that really need to be considered and assessed just as you would Brunello and it is only where such structured sangiovese fit relative to the estate’s other Brunello that need qualify it as Rosso. In today’s Montalcino one’s Rosso is another’s Brunello. It’s now more than ever a matter of location, soil and altitude.

Rosso can refer to the sangiovese berries themselves, meaning the winemaker will pick the largest for Rosso, the medium berries for Brunello and the smallest ones for Riserva. Others will designate vineyards to the Rosso, or plant new ones and use the youngest fruit. Still there will be some who pass through all their vines and designate specific blocks, referring to it and even labelling it as a cru. Finally there are some who wait and craft Rosso in the cellar, after the fruit has come in and been pressed. There are many ways to skin a Rosso but these days it is always a wine treated with respect. In terms of elévage, Rosso will more likely than not be raised in big barrels but not the Grandi Botti often used for the Brunello. As for vine age it seems the sweet spot is between 15 and 20 years.

Montalcino
(c) Consorzio Vino Brunello di Montalcino

What about Rosso vintages?

2018: A vintage from which acceptance is required, to seek pleasure only, not to look too deep into the future. The kind of tart and tang on cherry and more cherry is what you want from sangiovese meant for the table each and every night. Freshness and youthfulness is a beautiful thing. The wildcard of 2018 is sprezzatura, which translates as contempt but refers to Rosso with old school structure and texture in defiance to the average or general lightness of vintage. Some 2018 Rosso just have that disregard for normal.

2017: The driest and hottest of vintages and so making really high quality Rosso was like Sisyphus pushing a boulder up a hill. If you did it a day late you were likely going to come up a dollar short. If you got it right you made great wine with surprising structure. Advice to Sommeliers? Don’t miss out on selling Rosso from 2017.

2016: These are Rosso for Rosso sake, discriminant, linear, and vertical. If Rosso can be spiritual they would be these, poignant and so good. In 2016 these are the acids of Montalcino and the depth of earth which holds you firm in the face of a fluent perfume. What you need to know and what you want to drink. Rosso in 2016 should be crispy and crunchy with juicy fruit in the savoury candy way up against high and ripe acids. When this happens the best of the 2016 Rosso can live for a dozen years.

2015: So many Mediterranean wine regions reaped huge benefits from the 2015 growing season but I’ve not personally seen such an across the board level of quality from a group of structured wines as I saw in the Rosso Annata. You would have to go back to 2010 to find a vintage with a near-chivalrous level of generosity and as far back as 2001 for its equal. That said I would suggest with extreme prejudice that 2015 Rosso di Montalcino is the vintage to change your mind about its quality and its ability to stand alone. As an entity, the Rosso are produced from grapes farmed explicitly for a purpose and it is this ’15 vintage that can be used to back up that very proposition. Rosso are fashioned to make a young sangiovese distinctive and antithetical to Brunello, but with the resolution to forge ahead with an intrinsic and personal level of structure. I have tasted several 2010 Rosso in the last year and their remarkable freshness shows just how long they can go.

Altesino

Altesino

Located in the north of Montalcino where you can find the famous Montosoli hill and cru. Giulio Consonno purchased the property in 1970 and Altesino became part of the new Brunello revolution as one of a handful of Brunello producers who pushed for increased quality through the 1970s and into the 1980s. In 2002, the winery changed hands with new owner Elisabetta Gnudi Angelini taking over, adding to Tenuta Caparzo she owned nearby, also to the north of Montalcino. There are approximately 44 acres under vines and 220, 000 annual bottles produced under the winemaking team led by Simone Giunti and Alessandro Ciacci. Altesino is responsbile for not merely introducing but successfully marketing one of Montalcino’s most famous cru wines, Montosoli Brunello, named after the sought after vineyard. Rosso di Montalcino is a selection of sangiovese sourced from the younger vines in the Altesino, Pianezzine, Macina, and Castelnuovo dell’Abate vineyards. North and south combine for an estate Rosso.

Alessandra Angelini earned her undergraduate degree in Aerospace Engineering from La Sapienza University in Romeand participated in research projects designing Formula 1 cars and racing dinghies. In 2013, she began working for Rolls Royce North America designing airplane engines. In 2008 she was a member of the Italian Olympic Sailing team. She returned to the family business of wine and hospitality in 2017.

Emotional tasting through #altesino & @caparzowines with #elisabettagnudiangelini #brunellodimontalcino #montosoli #vignalacasa

Altesino Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2018

Altesino’s is consistently rich and baritone for Rosso, even in light ’18 and gone in all for one with not much left to the imagination. An amenable, commercial and viable proposition for anyone and everyone to take part. Drink 2020-2021.  Tasted February 2020

Altesino Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2016

Generally aged right to 10 months is large Slavonian oak barrels. Takes off straight from where 2015 left us, that is to say from fruit and into more fruit, of sangiovese in wild berry form, expected and imagined. Exactitude from winemaker Alessandro Ciacci, polished, crunchy and then more tannic as a vintage. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted October 2019

Altesino Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2015

Certainly richer and deeper than cousin Caparzo but really just a different child for Elisabetta Gnudi and just as important in its own right. This Altesino Rosso exhibits the ’15 freshness but with a year further under wing it has settled and added some weight, albeit in liquidity, sweet, viscous liquidity. So much joy here. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted February 2018

Altesino Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015

Very polished and made Brunello with a wealth of statuesque parts sculpted out of the high level materials presented the team that crafts this wine. Speaks to a very broad swath of place and a perfectly good drink of consumer appeal.  Last tasted February 2020

From the vintage where agriculture, winemaking and now selling came and will come easy so you can expect the warm, fuzzy, generous and soft. Perhaps too straightforward to be what the powers that be call a five-star vintage but if Brunello is what you want or even what you think you need then begin or continue the journey right here. Very berry, ultra liquorice and über morbido. Soft, amenable and unencumbered. Positive but certainly not overbearing structure. A now and through mid-term years drinking Annata. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted October 2019

Caprili

Caprili is located in the southwestern sector of Montalcino near the small village of Tavernelle. The podere dates back to 1965 after Alfo and his father Alberto Bartolommei decided to buy the property from the Castelli-Martinozzi family and split from the famous Pieve Santa Restituta estate. Alfo’s family originated from Podere Marzolo in the Municipality of Cinigiano (Province of Grosseto). In the same year they planted the first vineyard, still called “Madre” and their first bottle of Brunello di Montalcino from the 1978 harvest was put on the market in 1983. In 1997,  Alfo’s children Manuele, Paolo and Paola took charge of the estate.

Fast forward another couple of generations and 23 further years to arrive in the world of current owner and winemaker Giacomo Bartolommei who is also one of three incumbent Vice-Presidents of the Consorzio Vino Brunello di Montalcino. Giacomo’s first actual vintage of Brunello was 2010 though he had been active in the family business for many years prior. 

Caprili Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2014

Caprili is quite tense, nervous, unable to relax. It pulses with acidity and tannin, structure is certain and intensity over the moon. Welcome to one side of the tracks, the one without compromise and where Brunello is Brunello and over on the other side sangiovese is sangiovese. Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted February 2019

 

Carpineto

Carpineto Appodati comprises five Tuscan estates; Dudda and Gaville (Greve in Chianti), Montepulciano, Montalcino and Gavorrano (Maremma). No less than 28 different wines are produced off of the five properties and while their Vino Nobile sangiovese from Montepulciano have garnered the most international accolades, it is the Rosso and Brunello that concerns us most today. After all, as noted by Antonio Michael Zaccheo, Carpineto brings “la Toscana e i suoi vini magliori” to the world.

Carpineto Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2016

Carpineto’s 2016 comes from higher (450-500m) elevation than many, is aged longer (three years in large oak barrels) and so 2020 is just about the perfect time to enjoy its charms. This 100 per cent sangiovese off of marl and clay was picked into October and it so dutifully expresses the appellation, grape and territory. The all in fulsome red cherry is now joined by a silkiness of texture because the calcaire and the wood have softened, liquified and swirled right through the fruit. A fresh one from a structured vintage and put succinctly into that five to six years Rosso di Montalcino aging window. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted February and November 2020

Carpineto Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2014

Carpineto and proprietor Antonio Zaccheo Jr. produce 28 Tuscan labels on five Tuscan estates; Dudda and Gaville (Greve in Chianti Classico), Montepulciano, Montalcino and Gavorrano (Maremma). The Montalcino property is at 450m on a ridge just on the southwest corner to outskirts of the hilltop village. For 2014 it continues to swim in deep, dark and ripe waters but there is an ethereal coolness here and as such makes this a real winner for the season. Just entering an optimum window now it would be hard to figure any reason not to make this a go-to Brunello for the 20/21 and 21/22 winters. Smooth in all ways, most notably the palate and the ganache of chocolate across the finish. Drink 2020-2024.  Tasted August 2020

Carpineto Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2012

Carpineto’s is not just an exemplary 2012, it’s a bloody delicious one. The aromatics are pure vintage-related, of the deeper than many (darkening to black) cherry liqueur and the liquid dusty pearls of all things Montalcino sangiovese fruit, acidity and tannin. A very balanced Brunello in all regards, ready to be enjoyed and blessed with structure for five years (plus) moving forward. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted October 2017

Poggio San Polo

San Polo

Poggio San Polo was tarted in 2005 and is situated in Podernovi, on the southeastern slope of the Montalcino hill above the valley of Sant’Antimo with Mount Amiata looming to the south. The locals call this area a “Mezzopane,” meaning that to admire the beautiful view is to ‘take one’s fill’, like food for the soul. Two years later 2007 marked the beginning of the new era for San Polo and the Allegrini family, one of Veneto and Valpolicella’s most famous names in Fumane. The Estate is composed of two holdings: San Polo, planted in 1990 and Monteluc, planted more recently with a density of 7,000 vines/hectare, for a total of 22 hectares, The first winery in Tuscany and the second in the world to have earned the Quality Seal from the CasaClima Wine Certification. CasaClima Wine is a Quality Seal issued by the Bolzano-based agency, created to provide objective, credible evidence of the efforts made by wineries towards achieving more careful management of their business and to assess the environmental compatibility of winery buildings, comfort and suitability of work spaces, consumption of energy and water in the production of wines, choice of packaging materials, as well as the impact of transport.

San Polo Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2017

San Polo’s Rosso grows at 400m so it speaks in a high elevation appellative voice. The wine is usually the Allegrini estate’s most floral and mineral expression of sangiovese grosso but then along comes this 2017 vintage. The usual bracing acidity is there but a tripling of warmth is the result of hot ’17, southern vineyard fruit and southern exposure. San Polo dry farms which only accentuates the atypical profile. Most accumulation ever, at least in recent times when it comes to richness, extract and colour. Not a baby Brunello but structure and power are truly there. That said its best years will be the first so get at it and defend the cellar. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted February and November 2020

San Polo Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2014

Lovely sweet candied rose and herbal nose to this sangiovese and for the first time some reduction. Quite intense, locked down, massive and working for a living. Give some credit to this wine. It will settle into a lovely place in a few years time. Drink 2021-2025.  Tasted February 2019

San Polo Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013

The vintage is a terrific one for San Polo, transparent in its fruit clarity, inflective of warm south Montalcino vineyards. Località Podernovi is found on the southern slope with Mount Amiata acting as the mitigator for winds whipping in from the sea. The vintage was not a scorcher and how this walks a neither hot nor cold line is how it finds its grace. The fruit and acids are both of the appetizing and epicurean kind, equally opposing and nicely in synch. Lovely freshness to this Brunello. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted March 2019

Good to go!

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WineAlign

Backstage pass to Brunello di Montalcino

La Fortezza di Montalcino

VIP tickets to taste four Brunello di Montalcino from the acclaimed 2015 vintage

On Tuesday, November 17, 2020 I will play host and moderator for the second of six online seminars covering the entirety of Montalcino, joined by 25 producers and their exceptional wines. “Backstage pass to Brunello di Montalcino” welcomes Winemaker Francesca Arquint with her Collemattoni Brunello 2015, Oenologist and Proprietor Hayo Loacker and his Corte Pavone Brunello 2015, Violante Gardini Cinelli Colombini with Donatella Cinelli Colombini Brunello 2015 and oenologist Stefano Tofanelli pouring his Il Grappolo Brunello 2015 Sassochetto.

Related – Boomers, Gen Xers and Millennials: 40 years of Brunello di Montalcino DOCG

Montalcino, looking east

The Rosso and Brunello of Montalcino have for decades been recognized as residing in the premium realm of Europe’s finest red wines. You might think that a territory with such rich history, iconic figures, foremothers, forefathers and next generation figureheads would be content to rest on laurels and see little need to fix something that isn’t broken. Not so and while the new or next era of wine producers are certainly the obvious catalyst for exacting evolution, if at times gentle revolution, the answers run deeper and the interconnectivity with the past is well, unavoidable. I’m not a clairvoyant. If nothing out of the ordinary happened or presented itself I’d still see things the way everyone else does, or sees. In that sense I am the epitome of the boring writer. But I am a most fortunate writer because I travel a considerable amount. My game can’t help but to be elevated with the knowledge that a confident Montalcino is once again passing through a portal into a time of re-invention. I am trying to get to the source of what in recent years has been the impetus for a more than discreet across the board profound rise in quality.

Related – Benvenuto Brunello 2020: Montalcino surges ahead

Benvenuto Brunello 2020

The 2015 Brunello di Montalcino vintage

This return to an unequivocally and universally declared vintage of prominence for Brunello in one of both quantity and quality. It has been described as one “made by God,” that is to say all a winemaker had to do was not screw things up. Pundits and critics can’t help but try to break Montalcinio apart by affirming that one area or sub-zone is better than another. What ’15 does is level the playing field and remind us all that the whole is far more profound than any single part. The vintage is one of those automatic ones, marketing itself due to so many good wines having been made. A very good one for business while delivering high quality and most importantly without having caused any undue stress, especially relative to 2014. Despite lockdowns and pandemic related complications many Montalcino estates have pre-sold much of their 2015 Brunello. Will it be one of the longer lived in Brunello lore? Does it compare to let’s say 2001, 2004, 2006 and 2007 and 2010? Best that we allow the producers to address that question. What I can say is that the 2015 Brunelli speak to the wounded zeitgeist of our current situation with a knife that cuts straight through to the matter. They are sangiovese of purity, eloquence, accuracy and power.

These are some more comments I have made about 2015:

“A vintage of classic Brunello colour and the dichotomous relationship that bridges power and drinkability.”

“There is a perfume about 2015, a ripe cherry that stands apart.”

“The vintage question is far from a concern with respect to ripeness and a far more important consideration is more about the management of extraction, wood and acidity.”

“The come and get me vintage but don’t be misled, distracted or misunderstood. There are sneaky tannins everywhere.”

“In 2015, inexplicably and inescapably you can recognize the sangiovese from Montalcino.”

Collematoni

Collemattoni is the name of the podere in southern Montalcino dating back to 1672, very close to the village of Sant’Angelo in Colle. Giuseppe Bucci was the first Bucci,  a.k.a. Zappaterra, “the digger,” but there are some other possible meanings that might not exactly make it the most flattering of nicknames. The amazing thing about Montalcino’s oldest families is how they don’t sugar coat their ancestry. Sinners and saints are all remembered as they were. Marcello Bucci is the current generation, son of Ado and Vera, who in the mid-1980s decided to start bottling their own wine. Marcello is responsible for having created what is today Collematoni, an organic company in Montalcino.

The wines are made from 11 hectares of estate-owned vineyards, divided into five areas (Collemattoni, Fontelontano, Sesta, Cava and Orcia) for an average production of approximately 50,000 Brunello and Rosso di Montalcino. In favourable years Collematoni might prodcue 2,500 bottles of Brunello Riserva from grapes out of the Fontelontano vineyard. It is worth noting that thanks to the presence of a biomass fuelled heating system and solar panels, Collemattoni produces the 80 per cent of the electricity needed at the winery. The winemaker is Francesca Arquint who also happens to be married to Marcello. Arquint has also worked and made wines for Mâté and Caparzo in Montalcino.

Collemattoni Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2018

Such a consistently fashioned Rosso from Collemattoni, also a posit tug between freshness and structure, always to the proper precipice and edge of tang, tart and sour. Lingers with texture and wood rendering. A subtle wine that gains flesh as it works through the nervous system. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted February 2020

Collemattoni Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2017

A highly specialized terroir-driven Rosso with intensely structured tannins shaped over solid and strong bones. Really intense Rosso with leathery cherries and lots of dried herbs. Very good length. Drink 2021-2027.  Tasted February 2019

Collemattoni Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2014

Collematoni is a ripe one without breaching the grey areas of 2014 Brunello. Fruit in the pomegranate and red currant spectrum is protected beneath a hard tannic shell with circulating acids. Quite a beast this young and needing three to five years to gain its charms. Drink 2023-2028.  Tasted February 2019

Collemattoni Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013

Take a trip away from all you have noted, felt and perceived in the first 25 Brunello tasted from this 2013 vintage and begin anew. Imagine you know nothing of sangiovese nor how it translates from the Montalcino terroir. Take in this Collematini with open eyes, nose and mouth. It’s traditional, you would have to say and the most layered and variegated sangiovese imaginable. It transcends ubiquity and suggests a very personal affair. This is a religious, personal imposition from which there is no escape. The fruit is characteristic of vintage and specific to Sant Angelo in Colle but it comes replete first as a swell from the western sea and then a squall in the eastern wind. The fruit wave is massive, the stiff breeze of acidity equal to task and the tannins building, aboard ships whose masts flutter upon these seas. But it’s both a comfort and a charm, under a spell that you will not be able to avoid, not for a decade or more. Drink 2021-2033.  Tasted February 2018

Collemattoni Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2012

Gorgeous red fruit as generous and dare it be said, magnanimous as it gets. Collematoni is a fruit machine, but also a mineral maker and a long-distance, slow-evolutionary walker. The calcareous-clay impression (from San Angelo in Colle on the southern hill of Montalcino) leaves a lasting imprint on your Brunello soul. This carries fine millefoglie layers of fruit, woven in lattice and with alternative material from that fruit, of ground stone, acidity and sweet, fine-grainy tannin. No shards, no cruising and no need for rehydration. Carries it all in one bag, or bottle. Drink 2020-2032.  Tasted February 2017

Corte Pavone

Since 1996 Corte Pavone has been owned by Rainer Loacker and his sons, Hayo and Franz. Hayo is the winemaker. It is located in the Casanuova area to the west of Montalcino with hillside clay soils upwards of 450-500m, certainly one of the higher elevations in the territory. Much of the 90 hectares of the estate is covered with meadows and forests. Rainer Loacker is from the family that owns Biscotti Loacker and Remedia Loacker which produces and markets enzymes and other natural nutrients. He also owns Tenuta Schwarthof near Bolzano in Alto-Adige and Valdifalco in the Maremma. We often think about Brunello as coming from either northern or southern vineyards. In Casanuova and what separates it from other zones is the consideration of its western position and how the vineyards are affected by a closer proximity to the sea. More than this is the great altitude so that a cooler prevalence and diurnal temperature swing means Brunello of higher acidity. Hayo Loacker started carefully observing his organic terroir and vines 10 years ago and has set up a dynamic micro parcelling of the land, dividing it in different areas to define seven individual single vineyard of Brunello – what he refers to as the “7 dynamic Brunello crus.” They are Campo Marzio, Fior di Meliloto, Poggio Molino al Vento, Fiore del Vento, Anemone al Sole, Terra di Ginestra and Terra Nuova.

(c) Weingut Loacker

Corte Pavone Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015

Heady and high floral aromas beget a formidable Brunello of fortitude and strength. Deep as black cherry emits in sangiovese from a certainty of high elevation, warm vintage solar radiation. A different sort of ’15 from the northwest adjacent Romitorio and surely a soil so different despite being so close. Rich, strong acids and loose tannin. Drink 2022-2028.  Tasted February 2020

Tenute Loacker Corte Pavone Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2014

From Rainer, Hayo and Franz Loacker in Casanuova to the west of the village. The clay soils pack at upwards of 450-500m on slopes at one of the higher elevations in Montalcino. Here is a big wine from Corte Pavone and one that could only have been difficult to manage in a vintage that tested the communal mettle. Dark fruit, wood spice and finishing chocolate. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted February 2019

Tenute Loacker Corte Pavone Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013

Since 1996 Corte Pavone has been owned by Rainer Loacker and his sons, Hayo and Franz. Hayo is the winemaker. It is located in the Casanuova area to the west of Montalcino with hillside clay soils upwards of 450-500m, certainly one of the higher elevations in the territory. Much of the 90 hectares of the estate is covered with meadows and forests. Only four hectares are dedicated to vineyards with vine age 30-35 years old and with a plan of converting another four also blessed with the best exposures. The organic wines are aged in Slavonian casks, French Barrique and Austrian oak barrels. Rainer Loacker is from the family that owns Biscotti Loacker and Remedia Loacker which produces and markets enzymes and other natural nutrients. He also owns Tenuta Schwarthof near Bolzano in Alto-Adige and Valdifalco in the Maremma. We often think about Brunello as coming from either northern or southern vineyards. In Casanuova and what separates it from other zones is the consideration of its western position and how the vineyards are affected by a closer proximity to the sea. More than this is the great altitude so that a cooler prevalence and diurnal temperature swing means Brunello of higher acidity. Though quite approachable for Montalcino sangiovese this ’13 is also reductive, fresh, energetic and its tones are set to high. Great food Brunello. Drink 2018-2026. Tasted March 2018

With Violante Gardini, Azienda Agricola Donatella Cinelli Colombini

Donatella Cinelli Colombini

Donatella Cinelli Colombini comes from one of Montalcino’s longest running families, of a history and I quote, “where the lives of heretics, jurists, men of the church and grape growers entwine.” In 1998 when she went out on her own to create a new project and in reaction to the fact that wineries in Montalcino did not trust a female cellar master, Donatella created the first all-female run winery in Italy. The restored Casato Prime Donne is on the northern side of Montalcino on the road to Buonconvento, with sandy clay and Galestro soils and has been in Donatella Cinelli Colombini’s family since the end of the 16th century. Of the total surface of 40 hectares, 16.5 are planted to sangiovese and are cultivated organically. Aging for the first year was in (5-7 hL) tonneaux and then continued in (15-40 hL) Allier wood and Slavonian oak casks. The wine comes from six small vineyards in a 10 hectare area surrounding Casato Prime Donne. Two interesting facts about Donatella. One, she teaches wine tourism in the Master graduate programmes of three universities and two, in 2016 she was elected National president of the Donne del Vino Association. As for her daughter Violante, from 2013 to 2019 she was President of the Movimento Turimso del Vino Italiano, from 2016 to 2019 she was Vice President AGIVI (Young Italian Vine and Wine entrepreneurs) ands in December 2019 was elected President.

Donatella Cinelli Colombini Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2016

Of the first couple of dozen Rosso tasted this is the one with some true, purposed reduction, if only as an early veil of protection, to lock in freshness and deliver this forward. Some pretty firm and fleshy fruit directs the body politic so that the first two years will seem hushed and suppressed. It will open like a flower and reveal some charm, soon after that. Another clear winner of purpose and focus from Donatella Cinelli Colombini. Drink 2020-2026.  Tasted February 2018

Donatella Cinelli Colombini Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015

The 2015 is a deeper study in DCC soil and Brunello invention. You need to know that the northerly Donatella Cinelli Colombini terroir is more than offset, singular and testable. The makers of these Brunelli investigate every grain of sand, mould of clay and tumble of stones to forge the various cuvées of their sangiovese stable. This Annata carries a lyrical contralto in as much as that is a thing in Montalcino. A Cher, Annie Lennox, Nina Simone voice. It is precise and profound. It will live longer than the men. Drink 2023-2033.  Tasted February 2020

Donnatella Cinelli Colombini Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Prime Donne 2015

Prime Donne is a highly specific single expression of the most important fruit raised by Donatella, Violante and team. The dichotomy here is more perfume cross referenced in adjacency to more barrel inflected structure. More notions to consider, vineyard dirt expressed through morbido tones and wood scents in gentle baking spice. Quite weighty in tannins, surely a love song so divine, certainly a wine that will stand the test of time. Drink 2022-2032.  Tasted February 2020

Donatella Cinelli Colombini Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2014

Despite and in spite of the northern vineyard’s location of six small plots in a 10 hectare area surrounding Casato Prime Donne this from Colombini is quite ripe for the vintage. Strawberries and dusty, savoury accents drive the fruit into a pool of fine, welling and syrupy acidity. It’s an unusually simplified and somewhat flatlined wine for Donatella out of a vintage neither old-school nor flashy modern, yet major challenges are no obstacle for this estate and so her sangiovese is still very full of charm and grace. Drink 2021-2027.  Tasted February 2019

Donatella Cinelli Colombini Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013

In 1998 when she went out on her own to create a new project and in reaction to the fact that wineries in Montalcino did not trust a female cellar master, Donatella created the first all-female run winery in Italy. It is now an estate run by a team of no fewer than eight passionate women. The restored Casato Prime Donne is on the northern side of Montalcino, with sandy clay soils and has been in Donatella Cinelli Colombini’s family since the end of the 16th century. Of the total surface of 40 hectares, 16.5 are planted to sangiovese and are cultivated organically. Aging for the first year was in (5-7 hL) tonneaux and then continued in (15-40 hL) Allier wood and Slavonian oak casks. The wine comes from six small vineyards in a 10 hectare area surrounding Casato Prime Donne. Donatella describes 2013 as “an old style vintage, a Brunello that is elegant, complex, deep and harmonious, that will last decades. The scarce vintages are nearly always the higher quality ones.” There have been exceptional wines from Donatella in the recent past but the most impressive thing she can do is make a great wine in a challenging vintage. This 2013 does what needs; it’s delicately passed fruit avoids the intensity and drying angst of others, keeping the bright faith, binding it to tannin through the coursing dialectical collection of acidities and then making a valid request for patience. All 2013 Brunello need time, some will never come into their marriages and others, like the ’13 from Casato Prime Donne are already there. It will go further than many. Drink 2020-2029.  Tasted February and March 2018

Donatella Cinelli Colombini Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2013

Welcome to the Brunello Riserva you may just want to drink right now. From estate vineyards at Casato Prime Donne. The fruit is luscious and as full as ’13 can be, ripe to the max and this from the northern zone. Herbal in an Amaro way, some desiccation to create this red, black and blue sangiovese liqueur. Rich and chewy with a silky mouthfeel and even chewier tannins. Not particularly grippy or tannic by demand, it flows and apportions full circle, ode to the earth, all in and blood orange bright. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted February 2019

(c) Il Grappolo Montalcino

Il Grappolo

On 25 hectares with 16 planted south of Montalcino around Camigliano, in an area dense with Mediterranean scrub lying between the Tyrrhenian Sea and the Val d’Orcia. The vines look south towards Monte Amiata and west towards the valleys of the Maremma. Sassocheto, meaning “stone quiet” is Il Grappolo’s iconic Brunello made from 20-plus year-old vines in the south-facing Piano Nero vineyard, planted at 300 metres of elevation in deep, pebble-rich schist soils with decomposed rocks of Galestro, Alberese, and sandstone.  The wine ferments in temperature-controlled open vats and is given a lengthy maceration; it then matures at least 24 months in French and Slavonian oak barrels and a further 6/12 months in the bottle. Without equivocation and to keep us comfortably seated in the plush authenticity of traditional Brunello it is Sassocheto that confirms our notion of a sangiovese-Montalcino world.

Il Grappolo Brunello di Montalcino DOCG Sassocheto 2015

“Stone quiet,” signature wine for Il Grappolo, from 20-plus year-old vines in the south-facing Piano Nero vineyard, planted at 300m near Sant’Angelo in Colle. Schist soils are strewn with Galestro, Alberese and sandstone, the whole Montalcino masala, all in veritable contribution. Sassocheto, exacting sangiovese, as in Brunello that is just like looking in the territory’s mirror. Pure and harmonious with sly power both “subdolo” and “furbo,” because tannins like these wind in two directions, depending on which was the fruit winds just happen to blow. A worthy “campione” of the 2015 vintage, to set an example for how to win when your vineyards gift such exemplary fruit. One of the great values of the year. Drink 2021-2029.  Tasted February and November 2020

Il Grappolo Brunello di Montalcino DOCG Sassocheto 2013

On 25 hectares with 16 planted south of Montalcino around Camigliano, in an area dense with Mediterranean scrub lying between the Tyrrhenian Sea and the Val d’Orcia. The vines look south towards Monte Amiata and west towards the valleys of the Maremma. Sassocheto is Il Grappolo’s iconic Brunello made from 20 year-old vines in the south-facing Piano Nero vineyard, planted at 300 metres of elevation in deep, pebble-rich schist soils with decomposed rocks of galestro, alberese, and sandstone.  The wine ferments in temperature-controlled open vats and is given a lengthy maceration; it then matures at least 24 months in French and Slavonian oak barrels and a further 6/12 months in the bottle. Without equivocation and to keep us comfortably seated in the plush authenticity of traditional Brunello it is Sassocheto that confirms our notion of a sangiovese-Montalcino world. Should Il Grappolo’s be considered as more traditional than most? Yes, but just as this 2013 tells us with utmost clarity, the vernacular is spoken through an ever evolving and forward thinking lens. No pretence and all in for the right reasons. Drink 2020-2029.  Tasted March 2018

Il Grappolo Brunello di Montalcino DOCG Sassocheto 2012

The 2012 Brunello vintage is taken to an extreme side in Il Grappolo’s Sassocheto, with very firm and vacuumed aromatics shut and locked in so very tight. The depths are occupied by cherries drying, losing their body weight and settling into a floor of forest leaves and a future occupied by mushroom and truffle. The old-school, fine leathery and old barrel tonic bequeathes much hope for the mouthfeel and it gives every reason to confirm the possibilities. The world as we have known it here in Brunello sits right in this glass. It’s both comforting and filled with ancient wonder. Drink 2019-2027. Tasted February 2017

Il Grappolo Brunello di Montalcino DOCG Sassocheto 2010

Sassocheto is Il Grappolo’s Vigna 2010, a Sant-Angelo in Colle ripper, intense, brooding, formidable and still raging. Some 2010’s have already evolved and settled into their skin but Sassocheto is just getting started. If you are unfamiliar with the house then think of Poggio al Vento from Col D’Orcia for a stylistic comparison. The leather and cherry liqueur mix into roses and volatile syrup for a heady stew that is more traditional than modern. This is serious sangiovese, Montalcino style. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted July 2017

Good to go!

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Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign

Boomers, Gen Xers and Millennials: 40 years of Brunello di Montalcino DOCG

Montalcino, 6pm

My first of six online seminars will trace back through history to the origins of the DOCG classification for Montalcino’s Brunello

No one of sound mind passes up the opportunity to taste Brunello from Montalcino

It was the Baby Boomers in the late 1960s who looked on during the declining years of Italy’s Mezzadria sharecropping system while the founding mothers and fathers of Montalcino got together and forged a territory’s path. These Tuscan pioneers committed to unifying, marketing and selling their wines under the auspices of one consortium. Then through the 1980s and into the 1990s the watchful eyes belonged to Gen Xers at a time when Brunello di Montalcino passed through its formative years and began to develop a recognizable and powerful global identity. Generation X beget Millennials who then bore witness to wines that took the world by storm through the late 1990s and well in the 2000s. By the time Montalcino progressed through the decade of 2010 to 2020 Brunello had cemented its worldwide reputation as one of the most important, cellar-worthy and respected wines.

Municipality of Montalcino, “The land of Wine.” With a capital W, covering a surface area of 24,000 hectares, only 15 per cent of which is occupied by vineyards. Montalcino, 40 km away from the sea and 100 from the Apennines, protected at its southern reaches by Mount Amiata, looming at 1740m, diverter of storms; rain, fog and hail. The zone is roughly a square bordered by the rivers Ombrone, Asso, and Orcia. Sparsely populated, Montalcino the village and surrounding hamlets are inhabited by an overall population of just over five thousand. Since 1967 the territory and its sangiovese have been organized, charted, governed and protected by the Consorzio del vino Brunello di Montalcino. On Thursday, November 12, 2020 the first of six online seminars will cover the entirety of Montalcino and its exceptional wines. Over the course of these six sessions we will welcome 25 archetypal Montalcino producers and their wines.

Coming this Thursday, November 12, 2020

In the trusted duty as ambasciatore for Montalcino and its vital sangiovese I will play host and moderator to four of the territory’s most prominent and illustrious producers in this first of six pivotal seminars. Representatives from Canalicchio di Sopra, Fattoria dei Barbi, Tenute Silvio Nardi and Poggio di Sotto will chat up a select group of media and sommeliers through 40 years of Montalcino’s history. The territory’s controlled denominational guarantee has established its reputation since 1980. Boomers, Gen Xers and Millennials have seen it all, from humble beginnings through worldwide recognition.

With the introduction of Italy’s DOC quality appellation (Denominazione di origine Controllata) in 1963, Brunello quickly thereafter rose in the ranks of the eight most important Italian wines bearing that designation. In 1966, it became a DOC wine, and a year later the Brunello Consortium was founded, “as a free association of vignerons whose aim was to safeguard their product and emphasize its best qualities.” In 1980, it was the first wine to be granted the most important DOCG classification (Denominazione di origine Controllata e Garantita), a superior designation for select wines in Italy bearing a specific seal from the government.

The Consorzio del Vino Brunello di Montalcino was formed in 1967 as a coalition of 25 original members. There were 15 producers who signed the page on this accord kept at Bellaria Estate: Assunto Pieri, Ivo Buffi, Loffredo Gaetani Lovatelli, Giuseppe Cencioni, Bramante Martini, Pierluigi Fiovaranti, Silvano Lambardi, Annunziato Franci, Ferruccio Ferretti, Giovanni Colombini, Dr. Leopoldo Franceschi, Silvio Nardi, Gino Zannini, Lucia Perina and Elina Lisini. The other nine original members were Nello Baricci, Siro Pacenti, Milena Perina, Orazio Machetti, Dino Ciacci, Guglielmo Martini, Emilio Costanti, Sabatino Gorelli and Rev. don Leopoldo Bianchi.

The territory’s wine appellations cover Brunello di Montalcino DOCG, Rosso di Montalcino DOC, Moscadello di Montalcino DOC and Sant’Antimo DOC, all exclusively made from grapes grown within the city limits of the Town of Montalcino. There are 221 registered producers and bottlers with the Consorzio del vino Brunello di Montalcino. The President is Fabrizio Bindocci, Vice-Presidents are Giacomo Bartolommei, Stefano Cinelli Colombini and Riccardo Talenti. The Director is Michele Fontana.

Brunello di Montalcino is made from the sangiovese grape, a variety traditionally referred to as Brunello in this area. The regulations governing wine production dictate that the maximum production of grapes per hectare must be less than eight tons per hectare (approximately 52 hl/ha of wine). It also dictates the date of the wine being released onto the market, which is January 1st of the fifth year after harvesting. During this long period, the wine must spend at least two years in wooden barrels and age at least four months in the bottle. The Riserva wine must age at least six months in the bottle and is released a year later onto the market. Rosso di Montalcino DOC is proof of the great versatility of the Montalcino terroir, as it is made from the same sangiovese variety, but is a red wine to be enjoyed earlier. In fact, Rosso di Montalcino is introduced to the market on the September 1st following the year of harvest. Starting with the 1984 vintage, it attained DOC status. There are nine million bottles of Brunello and half that of Rosso produced on average each year. More than a quarter are certified organic and/or biodynamic and that is double as compared to just five years ago. Seventy per cent of the wines are exported. Current vintages on the market are 2015 for Brunello, 2018 for Rosso.

Benvenuto Brunello

The Consorzio’s members come together each February at The Chiostro Museo Montalcino and home to the Consorzio’s offices for Benvenuto Brunello, a two day showcase of the most recent vintages to wrap up Anteprime di Toscana. I recently attended a fourth consecutive collection at Anteprime di Toscana. The culminating 2020 presentation of 2018 Rosso DOC and 2015 Brunello DOCG raised the bar for Montalcino’s venerable sangiovese. You can read all about it here, inclusive of my tasting notes for 150 sangiovese; 36 Rosso di Montalcino DOC and 114 Brunello di Montalcino DOCG.

Related – Benvenuto Brunello 2020: Montalcino surges ahead

(c) Consorzio Vino Brunello di Montalcino

Related – Benvenuto Brunello 2020: Montalcino surges ahead

I recently asked a a host of Montalcino producers some pressing questions. Six questions in fact and here is what a couple of our first seminar participants had to say.

What recent vintage would you say marked the turning point for your winemaking, to bring your wines into a place and style that speaks of your particular vineyards, their location and terroir in Montalcino? What or why is the reason?

Stefano Cinellí Colombini, Fattoria dei Barbi: “We have had some turning points. 1931 was the first vintage with “important numbers,” 35,000 bottles instead of the normal 5,000/10,000 we had for a century because my grandfather Giovanni Colombini decided to try to sell it more widely. By mail and through agents in Rome, Naples, Florence and Milan. It was a success, the wine was more alcoholic and very austere. 1964 was rated the best red wine of Italy by the Italian Ministero dell’Agricoltura, obtaining the “Torchio d’Oro” It was a rich, powerful Brunello in a very traditional style, and our first vintage in which we produced more than 100,000 bottles. This was our first vintage appreciated by the Italian journalists, and also the first widely sold abroad. 1975 was a very classic Brunello but more “easygoing”, a turning point in style and marketing. Not so tannic as our previous wines, ready to drink after only five years but able to age very well for decades, it was the final result of years of research on fermentation and on a shorter period in wooden vats. This was very probably the first “modern” Brunello, a style that became the normal one for all the producers. It was an unbelievable commercial success, 235,000 bottles sold from the USA to Japan. 1995 was again something new, still in a very traditional style but larger, bolder even if very elegant. It was our first “fat” Brunello, in a period in which the wines had to be more and more “important” we reached this result avoiding any mechanical concentration with osmosis or similar devices. We increased the vineyards from 50 to 100 hectares, and reduced very strongly the production per hectare. 2007 was another important turning point, after five years of experience we could use for all our production dry ice, the new Ganimede fermenters and a completely “vintage program” which reduced to less than one hour the time from the picking of the grapes to the arrival in the fermenting vats. The result was a better extraction and a better concentration of the traditional flavours of Sangiovese. A more typical and more intense one.

Francesco Ripaccioli, Canalicchio di Sopra: “2013 may have marked the turning point for our winemaking, in looking for their particular sense of place, for a unique eastern to northeastern Montalcino sapidity in our wines.”

What mistakes have you made and how have you learned from them so that you can make better wines and the wines you need to make from your property?

Stefano Cinellí Colombini, Fattoria dei Barbi: “I am really lucky, because my ancestors take notes of the many mistakes they did in the last two centuries. In vineyards they tried at least two times very dense plantation, 1.5 metres per 0.80 and then in 1930 2 metres per 1. They tried alberello, guyot and cordone speronato on two levels. They tried to anticipate the vintage or to delay it. They tried chestnut vats. They tried warmer fermentation, and fermentation from three days to six months with the skins. Any kind of chemical, organic or mist fertilization. The modern Brunello is the result of centuries of mistakes of a group of producers, frequently friends and sometimes parents, which shared their good and bad results. I did just some small mistakes, because somebody else did the big ones.”

Francesco Ripaccioli, Canalicchio di Sopra: “We are learning from our mistakes, such as those we made in 2007. We are now much more going in the direction of purity in fruit and clean clarity out of the cellar. Brunello is all about freshness, verticality and depth. These are the three parameters of necessity, especially for Riserva.”

What effect do the Tramontane and Grecale winds have on your vineyards and can you pinpoint a particular vintage when the winds made a big difference in the wines?

Stefano Cinelli Colombini, Fattoria dei Barbi: “Montalcino is always very windy, so windy that our vineyards are accustomed. The only vintage in which I was able to note a special difference due to wind was 2013, at the beginning of September we had four days which dried the grapes on the top of the hills, which normally are the best places. The valley vineyards, which normally have mould problems, had a serious increase in quality.”

Francesco Ripaccioli, Canalicchio di Sopra: “In 2018 the Tramontana wind came on September 16th and the harvest began on the 29th for Rosso. The second wind called the Grecale also blew in to cause up to 30 per cent drying of the grapes. The resulting reduced yields meant for grapes of concentration in both fruit and acidity but also a high number for dry extract.”

How or why did 12 or 24 months, or in rare cases, 60-plus months further become the defined reason for how to make and qualify Riserva?

Stefano Cinellí Colombini, Fattoria dei Barbi: “In my opinion any true Brunello is at his best between eight and 20 years, it is due to the peculiar character of the Montalcino Sangiovese grapes.”

Francesco Ripaccioli, Canalicchio di Sopra: “The oak is not an ingredient. It’s a kneading for the wine.”

Do you prefer the oldest vines for Riserva or Vigna? And do you prefer them in colder or warmer vintages for these wines?

Stefano Cinellí Colombini, Fattoria dei Barbi: “I tried to find a mathematical connection between colder or warmer vintages and quality, but I had so success. The same happened with the rains. I prefer the best vintages for Vigna and Riserva, but sometimes these are warmer vintages and sometimes are the colder ones. Frequently the top vintages are the most “balanced” ones, but not always.”

Francesco Ripaccioli, Canalicchio di Sopra: “With vintage variation I prefer the oldest vines (Vigna Mercatale at Canalicchio) in the coldest vintages for Brunello and Vigna. For Riserva I choose the vineyard on the Montosoli hill.”

How are things going for Montalcino?

Stefano Cinelli Colombini, Fattoria dei Barbi: “Va a macchia di leopardo. It goes wild. More than a third of the Brunello “vintage” has already been sold and there are only two vintages in the last ten in which more has been sold. The prices of the bottles have not dropped. However, the bulk Brunello market (only 8% of the total) is at a standstill and the bulk price has dropped by 40%. Those who have an advanced commercial and / or a large brand suffer little or nothing, while the less organized ones have some problems. But there are not many. Bolgheri is fine, Maremma and Mo rellino benino, the rest of Tuscany ouch ouch.”

The following are my notes for Canalicchio di Sopra, Fattoria dei Barbi, Tenute Silvio Nardi and Poggio di Sotto Rosso di Montalcino DOC and Brunello di Montalcino DOCG tasted over the past two and a half years.

Canalicchio view

Canalicchio di Sopra

Canalicchio di Sopra has been farming the lower northeastern slope below the village of Montalcino since 1962 on 60 hectares, including 19 cultivated with vineyards within a context rich in biodiversity and natural beauty that was granted UNESCO heritage status back in 2004. The vineyards are split within two identified cru; the estate plots at Canalicchio and on the Montosoli hill. Canalicchio is split into six vineyards, including Casaccia which acts for a Vigna, or single-vineyard label. The first bottle of Canalicchio di Sopra Brunello di Montalcino was produced in 1966 and in 1967, the estate was one of the twelve founders of the Consorzio del Vino Brunello di Montalcino. Primo Pacenti founded the winery in 1962 and his of son-in-law Pier Luigi Ripaccioli began working side by side with him in 1987. Since 2001 the three grandchildren Francesco, Marco, and Simonetta have been involved in the family’s business.

While the others have real defined roles in vineyards and the office it seems that Francesco Ripaccioli has his hands in every aspect of Canalicchio di Sopra. Winemaking is clearly his focus and love but marketing the family’s wines and putting them in a bigger, wider and more collective Brunello di Montalcino context is clearly a life goal. Francesco is one of the territory’s most precocious team player that understands his family’s place in the context of a greater good. He is a fantastic ambassador for all of Montalcino and his wines are off the charts in excellence.

Canalicchio Di Sopra Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2018 ($39.95)

Only raised in big barrels but not the 2500L larger oak used for the Brunello. Lovely red fruit purity and transparency from a vintage that was at a near all-time low pH. Higher acidity conversely and serious enough to use for food matching ability. Just a hint of pressing is felt but it’s really just a matter of de-stemming that makes a push but not a crush. A little bit of whole berry helps ward of oxidation and the freshness is truly a matter of gentile handling. Such a fine, drinkable and complex Rosso. Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted February 2020

Canalicchio Di Sopra Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2016

The ’16 Rosso takes all the extract and acidity of the combined coming two vintages and gleans every ripe aspect for the ambitious way that Rosso can go. Deeper and less crushable and truth be told the Brunello appellation is cozied up to. Salty and full of proper tang with seasoning and spice. Drink 2020-2024.  Tasted February 2020

Francesco Ripaccioli

Canalicchio Di Sopra Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2010 ($39.95)

Wildly fresh considering Rosso was not often thought to show such longevity, but in can and will exhibit such tendencies. Potential ability is magnified in a dark fruit vintage that advances with wisdom, morphs and settles. Lives and evolves within itself. Sweet fruit persistence is more than admirable, it’s outright amazing. Scents of carob, dried orange and liquorice, now coming into a baking spice place with persistent acidity. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted February 2020

Canalicchio Di Sopra Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG “Canalicchio Di Sopra” 2015

Back to prominence for Brunello quantity is what 2015 does for business while delivering great quality without causing any undue relative stress. Both Canalicchio vineyards and Montosoli cru fruit make up the cuvée. Welcome to the beauty in cherry liqueur and outright unction from the generous vintage out of which every extra day meant more ripeness, more extract and more texture. The acidity factor is what drives this Brunello because staggered picking equates to an agglomeration of perfect timing. The true estate expression in no unspoken terms. Drink 2022-2031.  Tasted February 2020

Canalicchio Di Sopra Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Casaccia 2015

Casaccia as in the name of the house and the registered name of the vineyard, here a monopole look at Brunello from the larger 14 hectares for eastern Montalcino’s Canalicchio. The idea here is to celebrate a place within a place but without compromising the larger cuvée expression. Takes extract, concentration and purpose to another level, not to mention polish, precision and potential. The acids are elevated and the texture more refined, converse and complimentary. A tightness makes for some early attack that needs time to get past. Quite cool, tannic and intense. Will hit its stride quite far down the road. Drink 2024-2035.  Tasted February 2020

Canalicchio Di Sopra Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2015

A preview sample. Comes from fruit grown in the oldest two hectare vineyard of Vigna Vecchia Mercatale. The vines were planted in 1987 and in good vintages the potential is gifted, not a matter of grand impact but one of the land, the soil, the brown clay minerals and the elements. And so it’s a matter of longevity and potential, not brut strength. A beautiful example of Riserva, focused, precise and fine. And yet the style is poised in position along a line that includes the Brunello and the Riserva so homogeneity in these soils is more than apparent. This part of Montalcino makes this kind of wine and this house celebrates the consistency. Drink 2022-2036.  Tasted February 2020

Canalicchio Di Sopra Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2014

There is a substantiating reality to this sangiovese, typical of the sourness that vintage will not allow to be hidden though with more concentration than many. Chewy really comes to mind when you attack and in turn allows the palate to wage battle on your buds. Things fall into place well enough in spite of what 2014 wants to do to distract from the truth. Clearly a set above the norm. Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted February 2019

Canalicchio Di Sopra Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG “Canalicchio Di Sopra” 2013

This ’13 from Francesco Ripaccioli and Canalicchio di Sopra is sangiovese out of the excellent, variable, at times confounding and now at the seven year mark, nothing if not profound vintage. Perhaps even marks the turning point for a winemaker looking for his and his family’s sense of place, for a unique eastern to northeastern Montalcino sapidity in his wines. “We are learning from our mistakes,” he admits, “such as those we made in 2007. We are now much more going in the direction of purity in fruit and clean clarity out of the cellar.” Brunello is all about freshness, verticality and depth. The 2013 comes from what Francesco would still qualify as “not so easy a vintage, a vintage of interpretation.” Cold for a Montalcino season so he, his siblings and team passed through the vineyards on several occasions for preparation, timing and selection. “We like to clean the vineyard, to prepare for the harvest,” he adds. Picking happened in October “of amazingly floral fruit, finishing on the 11th, just as the rain arrived. Better to be lucky than good.” ‘Tis Brunello first of flowers in bloom, a candied scent and fresh herbs. Fulsome and openly fragrant, a silky texture, some chocolate and ultimately, beauty. Drink 2020-2030.  Tasted February 2020

Canalicchio Di Sopra Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2013

Showing beautifully, in a calm stage even, a respite from power and now, simply attractive. All the Canalicchio elements from clay soil show up; mild sweetness, furthered salinity and a deep sort of sapidity. Nothing fully pronounced but all there. Great Riserva vintage.  Last tasted February 2020

Riserva is a selection in the cellar though certain blocks from certain vintages are premeditated and in fact 2013 Riserva is solely selected from the Montosoli hill. The perfume stands apart, rising, haughty and full of fresh roses. The expression of rocks drawn into vines from the new age, climate-affected northern exposure are for perhaps the first time in the Cru’s history a brand new Canalicchio di Sopra Brunello. Salinity, sapidity, power and elegance. Truly. Drink 2022-2035.  Tasted October 2019

Canalicchio Di Sopra Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2012

“Reduction is a way to preserve the freshness and the florals of the wine,” tells winemaker Francesco Ripaccioli. Sangiovese is better set up and suited this way and while some Balsamico is now speaking through this ’12 Riserva’s voice, much of the aromatics are still situated in the realm of a high-toned grace.  Last tasted February 2020

A year previous to the ’13 Riserva (which will be made exclusively from Montosoli hill fruit) there is the depth of clay and controlled power out of Canalicchio cru vines. The absolute attention paid to patience and time is noted from a Brunello such as this, spoken out within the constructs of fruit extraction and wood usage. The tannins are red meaning they are ripe and request that you give this wine as much time as it gave before going to bottle and then to market. Lush, consistent from start to finish and just hinting at notes not quite Balsamico but something other, something derived from sangiovese grown in the grey clay of La Casaccia. Drink 2021-2032.  Tasted October 2019

Canalicchio Di Sopra Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2016 (Barrel Sample)

Barrel Sample. A deeper well filled with that cherry liqueur and clearly more extract and concentration. The tannins are still fierce, intensely chalky and fine bitters are very much a part of the mix. A furthered texture Brunello with no less strength than most 16s will surely exhibit but the power is tempered by this feel and polish. Quite a potential here for 20 plus years of longevity. Drink 2024-2035.  Tasted February 2020

Canalicchio Di Sopra Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Casaccia 2016 (Barrel Sample)

Barrel Sample. Now this is something exceptional. This is what Casaccia is obviously capable of producing, The sweetest Canalicchio fruit of all, to date and with a rising low and slow angling of acidity (as opposed to straight verticality) that carries the fruit to great heights. This will be a triumph and in fact it is already tasting like a piece de Canalicchio resistance while it sings a long maestro song. A soloist that needs no accompaniment although food, company and peace would not hurt at all. Obviously this is more than just the northern side of Montalcino and more than Canalicchio.  This is Casaccia.  Drink 2025-2040.  Tasted February 2020

Stefano Cinelli Colombini

Fattoria Dei Barbi

All visits to Montalcino must include La Fattoria dei Barbi. Barbi has been owned by the Cinellí Colombini family in Montalcino since 1352. The property extends over 300 hectares of fields and vineyards in southern Tuscany, in Montalcino and Scansano. Production of Brunello dates to 1892 and Barbi were the first to export it to Europe, America and Asia. Fattoria dei Barbi is now run by Stefano Cinellí Colombini, current heir to 848 years of lineage, educator, historian, keeper of tales, lore, mythology and chosen one who continues a story that has seen the Colombini family connected to these lands for more than six centuries. Fattoria dei Barbi has been referred to as being “among a prestigious group of estates that has played an integral part in writing the history of Italian wine.” That is the truth.

Fattoria dei Barbi was the first firm in Montalcino to export bottled wine to France (1817), the first to sell Brunello by mail order (1832), the first to export it to America (1962), England (1969) and Japan (1975). After the death of Giovanni Colombini in 1976, Fattoria dei Barbi has been managed first by his daughter Francesca and today by his nephew Stefano. And yet there is also humility and comedy in this family. As stated on the website and reiterated by Stefano last October in Montalcino as we walked through the cellars, “not all the Colombini were saints, others were womanizers and hedonists, like Tommaso Colombini, a mediocre poet member of the early Renaissance group of literates moving around Cecco Angiolieri. Another weird member at the end of the XVI century was Stefano, who in a fight blinded the Governor of Montalcino and had to run away.”

Guided tours of the historic cellars and the onsite museum of wine for the territory are unrivalled in all of Montalcino. Experiencing them with Stefano Cinellí Colombini is more than memorable. Cinellí Colombini’s ability to relive and rejoice every iota of this territory’s history is the crux of everything Montalcino. His deeper understanding is what you need to know and is based in his family’s long time defence of the traditions and values of the culture of Montalcino, whose ultimate and most valuable fruit is the Brunello. A Montalcino education begins with Stefano Cinellí Colombini and their wines are at the peak of traditional combined with always moving forward with the times. Along with Stefano, no one knows more about Barbi’s history and wine producing prowess than Raffaella Guidi Federzoni who is International Sales Manager for the company. In March of 2020 Rafaella penned a letter to our great mutual friend Jeremy Parzen in which she wrote, “Buy wine. The products of people that share with you a past in some remote village of the South or a medieval town in the Centre or a prosperous bunch of districts in the North. Buy wine made with an identity that belongs only to this small and strange country.
A country that now needs help.” That plea was to Americans but it resonated to Canadians as well.

With Raffaella Guidi Federzoni

Fattoria Dei Barbi Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2018

Barbi’s vintage acceptance and celebration is commendable to the degree that 2018 from vineyards ripened for pleasure is to be set this way. Such fruit, sweet thing, like “gardens misty wet with rain.” The kind of tart and tang on cherry and more cherry is what you want from sangiovese meant for the table each and every night. So right, walking and talking without ever growing old. Fresh youth is a beautiful thing. Drink 2020-2022. Tasted February 2020

Fattoria Dei Barbi Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015 (928028, $54.95)

C’mon classic Barbi here and the request is for this effectual realization to continue on forever, through the decades of vintages and their Brunelli. You come to expect the sort of juice that needs time, more time, precious time, endless time. You look for this tug of firmness, this posit strength and this creamy centre that ties the sangiovese room together. This does not and don’t ever abandon these roots Stefano, always keeps the Cinellí Colombini family’s Barbi faith alive. They are the lifeblood of this wine. Drink 2023-2030.  Tasted February 2020

With Stefano Cinellí Colombini

Fattoria Dei Barbi Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Vigna Del Fiore 2015 ($79.95)

Vigna del Fiore. Salty number for the Montalcino location and yet this ease of amenability and the way the Barbi effort solicits affectation is undeniable. This secrecy of structure is a house and Vigna speciality and the sauce is spread liberally across the succulence of the fruit. No denying the effort, the acumen and the persistence of unwavering potential. Drink 2022-2030.  Tasted February 2020

Fattoria Dei Barbi Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2014

The difficult vintages separate the adulte from the bambine and so expectation can’t help but run high for this storied house. I expect the 2014 may be misunderstood. Though quiet and maybe even needing to be described as in a state of demure, this from Barbi translates to grace. Forget vintage for this is Barbi, albeit in a world occupied by some not so unusual aromatics and flavours. Apples? Limes? Apricots? Perhaps. For now the state of grace is not fully accessible or appreciated. After some passage of time, in conjunction with good grip and slowly dissipating astringency, this will live on as a Barbi Brunello. It will do so in honesty, as if there could be any doubt. Drink 2023-2029.  Tasted February 2019

Fattoria Dei Barbi Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013

If there is another estate in Montalcino with more ode in pocket to tradition and history while always moving and thinking forward then I’d like to meet it. Barbi’s ’13 takes an express leap ahead, away from where it came but with notes and stories that recall its past. This fruit is serious, wise, salumi-frutta di bosco meets fragola based, chewy, ropey and exact. The tannins are drying over round and bounding acidity while the age potential never wavers. It’s a baby, like so many, but in a Brunello as here, as always, there is no speculation, only certainty. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted February 2018

Fattoria Dei Barbi Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2013

There are Barbi Riservas and there are Barbi Riservas. Many are the toughest nuts to crack and then along comes a fruit beauty like 2013. Not sure I’ve ever tasted this sort of gregarious nature from a Barbi, normale, Riserva, or Vigna del Fiore. There is no compromise to tradition but there too is no holding back in delivery of ripe, fattened red fruit, sweet acidity and even sweeter tannins. The picking, selecting, vinifying and aging of the components that made up this wine were spot on. A gift to the consumer. Start your Brunello Riserva journey right here. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted February 2019

Fattoria Dei Barbi Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2012

Barbi accomplishes an Annata Brunello just haste in 2012, taking expressly written sangiovese red fruit and pushing it to the limits of its natural tendencies, in hue and expression. I would have to say that consistency from this house is an absolute guarantee and that its style trumps vintage as much as any other. This is simply more Barbi than 2-12. That’s all there is to it. Tannins are firm, acidity is strong and fruit is up to the 15 year task. Nothing time sensitive about it and its timeless structure cements the absolution. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted February 2017 and October 2019

Fattoria Dei Barbi Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Vigna Del Fiore 2012

Barbi has also listened to the wind and vintage ear worms sung from their iconic, 16th century vineyard known as Vigna del Fiore. Red fruit of clarity and purity reigns while acidity is at its finest for the house. The rusticity of cherry, leather and roasted beets combine for full gastronomic effect and lead into a rather sumptuous and mouth coating texture for the palate. This scales the wall and retreats again to stay in the game in which you can play now (well, soon), then repeatedly, at consistent increments, later and later. VdeF from Barbi is a best of both worlds Brunello for both consumer and collector. Drink 2019-2031.  Tasted February 2017 and October 2019

Fattoria dei Barbi Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Vigna del Fiore 2011

Having tasted the follow-up 2012 a year earlier in Montalcino made for more than a curious moment to look at this 2011 one year later and in Toronto. Nothing against the rock solid ’12 but this vintage is simply glorious. Waiting 12 months was not just worth it but clearly essential. The walls have come down, the sea departed, volcano stepped aside and all that is right in a Castelnuovo dell’Abate Brunello world is also righteous and beautiful. Some of Montalcino’s most famous and iconic wines have come from Stefano Cinelli Colombini and Fattoria Barbi, the oldest of which date back to 1870. There are two centuries of history with thanks to Francesca Colombini. The Vigna del Fiore “vineyard of the flower” or maybe “flower garden vineyard” is unique to Castelnuovo dell’Abate, one of the oldest (and furthest south) in Montalcino. The block is just under six hectares from an area where vines have been cultivated since the XVI century. It sits on the top of a hill that descends toward the Asso and Orcia rivers and faces Mt. Amiata. The hill is a natural corridor between Montalcino and Mt. Amiata and it connects the Crete Senesi in the Val d’Orcia and the basin of the Ombrone valley as you head to the sea. The production varies a lot; in some years it is not produced and at a maximum it reaches the 13,000 bottles range. The first vintage was 1981, chosen to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Francesca Colombini Cinelli. Aged in small to medium size (that is 5-20 hL) oak barrels for the first months, it completes the aging in larger oak barrels for a total period of two years and then is bottled at least four months before it’s released. The oenologist is Paolo Salvi. This represents what matters in terms of Vigna-designate Brunello and what it means compared to broader expressions drawn from and combining several vineyards. So close to drinking perfectly but to tell you the truth, you don’t have to wait. Drink 2019-2033.  Tasted March 2018

Poggio di Sotto

Poggio Di Sotto

Poggio di Sotto’s certified organic estate was founded in 1989 on the south-eastern side of Montalcino overlooking the Orcia valley and in 2011 became part of the ColleMassari family of wines. Monte Amiata looms and protects while sea breezes blow in for a property that enjoys a unique microclimate immediately southeast of Castelnuovo dell’Abate. The estate’s founder was former shipping executive Piero Palmucci who worked with famed sangiovese oenological consultant Giulio Gambelli. Together they held a deep interest in clonal selection and so in 1997 a collaboration with the University of Milan was established in order to plant new vineyards. Today the Tipa Bertarelli Family is the custodian of the original vision, albeit with Italian passion and Swiss precision. Claudio Tipa is the owner of ColleMassari and Grattamacco and beginning in 2011 he and his team committed themselves to the same quality standards and production techniques that have made the estate’s reputation.

Palmucci believed that dark Brunellos are disingenuous and the wines could not possibly be pure varietal expressions unless they were light and transparent reds. The same winemaking team led by Luca Marrone of nearly three decades an Oenologist Federico Staderini continue to produce sangiovese of great traditional and authentic construct. The sangiovese are timeless, unparalleled for this special part of Castelnuovo dell’Abate. Perpetual upholding for decades of generational standards.

Poggio Di Sotto Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2016

Very fine quality of tannins wind their way around the ripest fruit picked right in time to keep the acidity (6.3 tA) not just in line but up there in full regale with the gathered parts. The red fruit is so very specific to appellation and place, two interchangeable parts that make Rosso shine. Crispy and crunchy with juicy fruit in the savoury candy way that’s just what this ideal new deal has to be. Few Rosso will age like this from Poggio di Sotto. Drink 2020-2028.  Tasted October 2019

Poggio Di Sotto Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015 (337774, $180.00)

No less than a finessed coax of pure higher altitude sangiovese fruit delivers the southern territorial goods in 2015. That and a staggered pick, layered atop one another for a stack of juicy, ripe acid and fine grained chain of tannic goods. The seamlessness and positively structured finesse is beyond comprehensible commend-ability. It’s outright impressive.  Last tasted February 2020

The red fruit of this place and only this place is amplified or better still exemplified in appellative Brunello. There is a glycerin derived and in possession of balance, from soils, elements and climate that is unparalleled for this specific area of Montalcino just to the west and below Castelnuovo dell’Abate. The fine shift from earth to fruit and into tannin through mineral bleed and finally peppery savour all works on the palate. This ’15 is proof of how a team continues to uphold standards of these vineyards no matter the ownership or the hopes, dreams or wishes of those who support and also those who drink from the deep well of this project. Drink 2022-2033.  Tasted October 2019

Poggio Di Sotto Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2014

Substance, glycerin and concentration gather for a Brunello of Brunello standards in Poggio di Sotto’s ’14. Intensely saturated and insular the nose is closed and for good reason. What you notice about the quality here is the silk across the palate and the length., It surely indicates quality, fine and ripe tannins and an ability to age. Drink 2022-2029.  Tasted February 2019

Poggio Di Sotto Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2013

Poggio di Sotto’s Riserva persists in a void occupied by reduction and grip, in full protection of fruit not yet needing to really be set free. A few years lay ahead before it will open, bloom and reach towards the the blue light of a Montalcino day. This Riserva is not shy but it sees no reason to open up. The fruit beneath is chewy and crunchy, fresh as the day it was born from the barrel. Very stylish, traditional, culpable in clarity and five years away from laying out the hand it was dealt. Drink 2023-2035.  Tasted February 2019

Poggio Di Sotto Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013

A highly serious, concentrated, richly endowed and full-fruit acquiesced sangiovese with extremely fine tannins overtop just as fine acidity. The style is by now well-known and persistent though it would not be a stretch to note that it’s also something almost impossible to repeat with fruit from anywhere else. The confidence and quiet ego of this wine is owned by Poggio di Sotto and Poggio di Sotto alone. Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted February 2018  #poggiodisotto    Poggio di Sotto

Poggio Di Sotto Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2012

There is no shortage of grandiosity in Poggio di Sotto’s Riserva though it does not reach for too much hedonism or flamboyance. Fruit is a wealthy player while acidity ranges from wild to extreme. There is a feeling of tonic embrace and plumped up stone fruit bitters though fleshy and spirited is really the operative. There is this juicy orange note on the back end of the acidity with a long, stretched and syrupy finish. Really big Riserva. Drink 2021-2033.  Tasted February 2018

Tenute Silvio Nardi

Tenute Silvio Nardi is located in Casale del Bosco which is in Montalcino’s most northwestern sector just at the reach of the east/west portion of the Ombrone River. The estate farms 80 hectares of vines divided into 36 vineyards. Casale del Bosco is the western estate while Manachiara is the east, near Castelnuovo dell’Abate. It was purchased by Silvio Nardi in 1962 and is split into three parcels: Colombaiolo, Manachiara and Pinzale. Manachiara is responsible for production of the Brunello cru label Vigneto Manachiara. Casale del Bosco dates back to XVII century, but the origins of this site are Etruscan. It was bought by Silvio Nardi in 1950 and is the source for the cru Brunello Poggio Doria.

Silvio Nardi was from neighbouring Umbria and produced agricultural machines. He is considered to be the first “foreigner” to invest in the wine business in Montalcino and later in 1967 became one of the territory’s founding members. Emilia joined her father’s business in 1985 and through 1990 made many integral changes to the vineyards and also wine production. She has held a most curious and tireless interest in clonal selection. Now 30 years into her winemaking tenure, Emilia Nardi was once quoted as saying “ff Manachiara is the wine of dawn, Poggio Doria can be defined as the one of dusk.” Manachiara was first made in 1995, Poggio Doria in 2004.

Tenute Silvio Nardi Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2018

Very cherry, ripe mainly, some sour edges and all dominant in a very fruit forward wine. Explores the essence of sangiovese with a heart struck and set into a Montalcino land. Could be from nowhere else and demands drinkable attention. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted February 2020

Tenute Silvio Nardi Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2016

Radiant, fresh and effulgent Rosso is a wonderful thing and although this has yet to shed its barrel fat it offers a great glimpse into its fruit-filled, long-lasting and expressive future. There is much to admire in how this puts the fruit at the forefront and then welcomes both fine acidity and some fineness that incorporates structure. Solid Rosso from a range of vineyards by winemaker Emanuele Nardi. Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted February 201

Tenute Silvio Nardi Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015 (922054, $46.95)

Lovely little ’15 from Nardi that grows in stature as you work the glass. Begins with classic dusty cherry and leather earthy fruit then climbs upward with high level acidity. Crescendoes at a higher point and lingers well into the next hour. I can hear this one ‘knockin’. Great Brunello blues riff and groove. Vintage in, vintage out one of the most consistent Montalcino wines. Drink 2022-2028.  Tasted February 2020

Tenute Silvio Nardi Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Vigneto Manachiara 2015

Serious wine here from Nardi, rich and nectareous, exotic and welling with big fruit flavours. The secondary and tertiary attributes can do nothing but lift and lengthen this wine towards epochs of imitable time. Look to open six bottles every three years for up to 20 in total. Drink 2022-2033.  Tasted February 2020

Tenute Silvio Nardi Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Poggio Doria 2015

Poggio Doria is the wild child of Silvio Nardi, a high acid, bigger tannic structure sangiovese of pulse, energy and drive. Fruit substance is high, tones are equally elevated and time will do great things to this wine. Full throttle, edgy, briny, intense, grippy and full of so much Montalcino love. Drink 2024-2034.  Tasted February 2020

Tenute Silvio Nardi Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2014

Nardi takes the vintage hand and likewise opens up their hearts, throws their cards down and makes public the plan. Ripe fruit, short to moderate structure and relatively easy early drink ability. Some more tannin than a few, some it of underdeveloped but for the most part sweet, fine, ready and willing to work with protein, preferably on the saltier side of hard rock life. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted February 2019

Tenute Silvio Nardi Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013

Extreme unction and sultry personality separate Nardi’s ’13, in definition and construct away from so many peers. Oenologist Emanuele Nardi draws his classic Brunello from the fluvial Cerralti parcel, a mix of jasper which is a type of opaque, granular quartz, along with shale and clay. There is no sense of drying fruit and tough tannin in this luxurious sangiovese, no, rather its bright, effulgent and outwardly sexy. Classic liqueur and modern texture give way to grippy acidity and more than necessary structure. This is one of those Brunello that speak with fruit early but with a knowing nod to longevity. Drink 2019-2028.  Tasted February 2018

Good to go!

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Montalcino, 6pm

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WineAlign

Benvenuto Brunello 2020: Montalcino surges ahead

Montalcino Sunset

Anteprime di Toscana’s culminating 2020 presentation of 2018 Rosso DOC and 2015 Brunello DOCG raised the bar for Montalcino’s venerable sangiovese

Montalcino, February 2020

The sangiovese of Montalcino are not to be taken lightly nor for granted and they are, to a wine, crucial to mind, culture and life as we know it. When presented in times of adversity they are the sort to help us keep our wits about us. To an extent the Rosso and manyfold the Brunello are of an ilk that allow our animal selves to assist in ensuring the survival of our species. Allowing them to age incrementally and gracefully is an important part of the contract. Either by dint or by choice, drinking Montalcino, especially young Brunello, deregulates our homeostatic processes with a kind of sudatory sedation. This is because of an unavoidable youthful aggression and incredibly dense succession of tannins, as if each were linked to the next by an invisible force, to a chain singular and melting into one another. They are known to induce fruit sweats while simultaneously controlling emotion and so we remain in balance. In some reflective respect the act of drinking Rosso and Brunello di Montalcino is akin to a full-fledged carnal embrace. If what follows is a feeling of compunction then guilty as charged is our pleasure.

The Rosso and Brunello of Montalcino have for decades been recognized as residing in the premium realm of Europe’s finest red wines. You might think that a territory with such rich history, iconic figures, foremothers, forefathers and next generation figureheads would be content to rest on laurels and see little need to fix something that isn’t broken. Not so and while the new or next era of wine producers are certainly the obvious catalyst for exacting evolution, if at times gentle revolution, the answers run deeper and the interconnectivity with the past is well, unavoidable. In the trusted duty as ambasciatore for Montalcino and its vital sangiovese next month I will play host and moderator to two dozen of the territory’s most prominent and illustrious producers in six pivotal seminars. In trying to get to the source of what in recent years has been the impetus for a more than discreet across the board profound rise in quality, I recently asked a gaggle of Montalcino producers some pressing questions.

Tasting at Benvenuto Brunello in Montalcino, February 2020

Brunello inspired to the best wines made by my grandfather produced between 1970 and 1980

… Donatella Cinelli Colombini

Ten producers, six questions

What recent vintage would you say marked the turning point for your winemaking, to bring your wines into a place and style that speaks of your particular vineyards, their location and terroir in Montalcino? What or why is the reason?

Francesco Ripaccioli, Canalicchio di Sopra: “2013 may have marked the turning point for our winemaking, in looking for their particular sense of place, for a unique eastern to northeastern Montalcino sapidity in our wines.”

Tommaso Cortonesi, Cortonesi – La Mannella: “2006 was the first vintage during which I have followed every aspect, from the vineyard management to the winemaking. So that was a benchmark for me. 2012 is a reference vintage in terms of style, with the introduction of the family brand “Cortonesi” and the two different crus La Mannella and Poggiarelli. From this vintage, Brunello “La Mannella” is made just with La Mannella vineyards grapes. Two different Brunellos from two very different Montalcino terroirs. I had in my mind the idea of Brunello di Montalcino as pure expression of his terroir.”

Lorenzo Magnelli, Le Chiuse: “2006, my very first one. From the very beginning it was clear from me how it’s necessary making wines that speak about sangiovese and Montalcino, that’s what make unique a wine from this region and it’s even more important when you have an important historic background like we do here at Le Chiuse.”

Riccardo Talenti, Talenti: “The 2010 vintage, not only for the beautiful quality expressed, marked the definitive passage of an awareness and an approach to wine that I am still following today. It was the first to be done in the new cellar where we chose to carry out the fermentation in conical steel with the use of punching down at controlled temperatures. In addition, since 2010 a good percentage of new vineyards have been in production which have helped improve agronomic management. The 2004 vintage marked the awareness of a differentiated management of the vineyards given their different exposure and different terrains. For my youth and little experience they were years and harvests difficult to interpret.”

Elisa Fanti, Tenuta Fanti: “Our vintage is absolutely the 2006. During the harvest and the aging of the Brunello 2006 we have learned the characteristic of a very elegant Sangiovese and we have loved this! We started to select the different Sangiovese from different vineyards, to select also our four different areas of the vineyard and we have started to make our two selection of the Brunello di Montalcino, the Riserva before (on the 2007 vintage) and the Vallocchio later ( 2010 vintage).”

Stefano Cinelli Colombini, Fattoria dei Barbi: “We have had some turning points. 1931 was the first vintage with “important numbers,” 35,000 bottles instead of the normal 5,000/10,000 we had for a century because my grandfather Giovanni Colombini decided to try to sell it more widely. By mail and through agents in Rome, Naples, Florence and Milan. It was a success, the wine was more alcoholic and very austere. 1964 was rated the best red wine of Italy by the Italian Ministero dell’Agricoltura, obtaining the “Torchio d’Oro” It was a rich, powerful Brunello in a very traditional style, and our first vintage in which we produced more than 100,000 bottles. This was our first vintage appreciated by the Italian journalists, and also the first widely sold abroad. 1975 was a very classic Brunello but more “easygoing”, a turning point in style and marketing. Not so tannic as our previous wines, ready to drink after only five years but able to age very well for decades, it was the final result of years of research on fermentation and on a shorter period in wooden vats. This was very probably the first “modern” Brunello, a style that became the normal one for all the producers. It was an unbelievable commercial success, 235,000 bottles sold from the USA to Japan. 1995 was again something new, still in a very traditional style but larger, bolder even if very elegant. It was our first “fat” Brunello, in a period in which the wines had to be more and more “important” we reached this result avoiding any mechanical concentration with osmosis or similar devices. We increased the vineyards from 50 to 100 hectares, and reduced very strongly the production per hectare. 2007 was another important turning point, after five years of experience we could use for all our production dry ice, the new Ganimede fermenters and a completely “vintage program” which reduced to less than one hour the time from the picking of the grapes to the arrival in the fermenting vats. The result was a better extraction and a better concentration of the traditional flavours of Sangiovese. A more typical and more intense one.

Riccardo Campinoti, Le Ragnaie: “In 2006 I started working in a more traditional style with longer maceration time and only big barrels. Also I started focusing on single vineyard sites.”

Conte Francesco Marone Cinzano, Col d’Orcia: “At Col d’Orcia we pride ourselves in producing traditional wines with long aging potential since even before the arrival of my family in 1973. When we conduct vertical tastings (often going back 50 years) the most important aspect for me is that tasters find aromas and tastes that are constant over time. The key of this approach is that we use only grapes grown on this hill and that we are true to the character of the soil and climate of this estate. Of course there has been an evolution over time, but rather than adopting different manipulations to the wines, we have improved our quality control and the equipment that allows us to follow with greater precision the fermentation and aging process in order to intervene with greater timeliness on decisions such as pump-over, end of maceration on the skins, racking, contact with air, etc.”

Donatella Cinelli Colombini, Casato Prime Donne: “In the vineyard the year of change was 2012. This was the first year with very high temperatures, hydro-stress and intense rainfall just like monsoons. We have leant how to trim back the vines in a different way, using the leaves too protect from the sun. We have learnt that we must reduce the surface of active leaves to reduce the transpiration and so to lower the canopy. We have also learnt that the de-leafing usually done in September (and unfortunately still done by many wineries) damages the grapes because now the UV radiation is much stronger than before. In the harvesting of the grapes the 2017 vintage was a turning point for us. It marked the return to a selecting of the clusters, just as my grandfather used to do, for opposite reasons. 50 years ago his problem was too little sun, we now have too much. In the end, to pick the grapes at their maximum level of ripening we need to pick the clusters one by one, going through the vineyard several times.  Since 2017 we have continued to select the clusters. The concept of “Vigna” as was intended at the end of the 1900’s must be revisited so as to obtain qualitative excellence. For fermentation maybe 2011 was the year that marked the change. The year that taught us most in the management of the grape and must PH. In 2011 the Montalcino wineries encountered Brettanomyces, which previously, was practically unheard of thanks to the high acidities. Now attention on PH and the cleanliness in the wineries are much superior to before.”

Giacomo Neri, Casanova di Neri: “With 2010 we have reached a balance between perfume, structure, length, finesse and elegance which has had a constant following in the following years. The age of the vineyards, a greater experience in the management of woods and in winemaking.”

Filippo Chia, Castello di Romitorio: “The vintage that most changed my life was the 2015 vintage.  It was the first year that our new vineyards produced Brunello quality fruit, the marriage of the new vineyards and old vines coincided with one of Montalcino’s most interesting growing seasons. It was a slightly warm vintage that tested the health and vigour of the vine pushing it to the limit but not beyond.  Fruit was beautiful and crunchy and with ripe seeds and stems which gave way to wines with a good potential for ageing but also very generous and voluptuous also in youth.  A confluence of factors, climate, vineyards, and careful choice of oak framed the 2015 as one of Romitorio’s best vintages of all time.”

Tasting hundreds of Sangiovese over the course of 10 days in Italy would be inconceivable without the tireless work ethic, attentiveness and dedication of all these talented sommeliers. #aissommelier #italiansommelier #associazioneitalianasommelier

What mistakes have you made and how have you learned from them so that you can make better wines and the wines you need to make from your property?

Lorenzo Magnelli, Le Chiuse: “I always make mistakes and always learn from them, every vintage it’s another story and every time I try to do the best choices for my vines and wines. I love it because those mistakes could makes your land-wine-feeling connection stronger.”

Riccardo Talenti, Talenti: “I started in 1999 with the first harvest made entirely by me, not having too much direct experience. I can say that the first five harvests were difficult as an approach in the vineyard and then in the cellar. The agronomic part was the same in all the vineyards, but with completely different vintages; hot 1999, very hot 2000, very rainy 2002 and very hot 2003. This diversity made me understand on my skin that the vineyards had to be managed differently. The research on the grapes as well as having excellent ripeness and health is to manage the acidity in the best way during the ripening in order to have an elegant and persistent character on the wine.”

Elisa Fanti, Tenuta Fanti: “Our principal mistake in the past was to “clean” too much our wines. We had left much space at the perfect analytical parameters, at the perfect wines with very definite characteristic. Now we understand it is important to have the real characteristic of the vintage and the terroir in the bottle. Sometimes a little shades and also a little imperfection (why not) are very important to respect the personality of the wine.”

Stefano Cinelli Colombini, Fattoria dei Barbi: “I am really lucky, because my ancestors take notes of the many mistakes they did in the last two centuries. In vineyards they tried at least two times very dense plantation, 1.5 metres per 0.80 and then in 1930 2 metres per 1. They tried alberello, guyot and cordone speronato on two levels. They tried to anticipate the vintage or to delay it. They tried chestnut vats. They tried warmer fermentation, and fermentation from three days to six months with the skins. Any kind of chemical, organic or mist fertilization. The modern Brunello is the result of centuries of mistakes of a group of producers, frequently friends and sometimes parents, which shared their good and bad results. I did just some small mistakes, because somebody else did the big ones.”

Riccardo Campinoti, Le Ragnaie: “Plenty, in the beginning I was trying to go a bit more modern and more approachable style. Also I was doing lower yields for no real reason and picking too late sometime. Now I just go for balance.”

Conte Francesco Marone Cinzano, Col d’Orcia: “Up until the turn of the century, we had a tendency to submit the wines to excessive extractions during fermentation, often extracting dry tannins that needed a very long time in wood and in the bottle to soften. We are now using a much lighter hand thanks to the use of the spectrophotometer as a quality control equipment that tells us exactly when the wine has taken from the skins all it needs to achieve a balanced and elegant wine.”

Donatella Cinelli Colombini, Casato Prime Donne: “To begin with, when I left my family’s activity in 1998 to create my own, I needed to differentiate myself, do different things, to experiment a little…A bit like the Barolo boys in Piedmont. Slowly I understood the value of the century-old expertise of the Montalcino grape growers a now we are doing practically the same as them. We are even planting old varieties of wheat on the soil before planting new vineyards. My various Brunello are not powerful and neither fat. My wines are fine, lengthy, harmonious, complex and apt for long ageing. My grandfather was able to produce such wines only a couple of times every 10 years but we can do it practically every year because the climate gives us a helping hand.”

Giacomo Neri, Casanova di Neri: “Each harvest has given us something to grow and given the possibility to correct some details, over the years I believe that our wines have bought a lot in complexity, balance and finesse.”

Filippo Chia, Castello di Romitorio: “The mistakes have been many, and it takes time to find the perfect balance between making wine in the vineyards and in the cellar. It all starts with a vision and intuition and at times the first try can seem to be a mistake and over time prove to be a resource. For instance in the early 1980’s sangiovese had a hard time ripening and most wines barely reached 13%. This was especially true at higher altitudes and often wines from the hills maintained a green “stemmy” character when compared to the wines from the valley. Today things have changed drastically. Advancement in viticultural practices during the 1990’s changed the way that Montalcino practiced its winegrowing as we start to see new methods of planting – closer spacing and more vines per hectare. New farming techniques, lower yields, de-stemming and sorting had an incredible impact on the quality of Brunello di Montalcino. However climate change has been felt also in Montalcino and areas (such as those of the Romitorio) which once may have seemed like a mistake unable to produce world-class Brunello today express some of the highest quality Brunello di Montalcino.

Francesco Ripaccioli, Canalicchio di Sopra: “We are learning from our mistakes, such as those we made in 2007. We are now much more going in the direction of purity in fruit and clean clarity out of the cellar. Brunello is all about freshness, verticality and depth. These are the three parameters of necessity, especially for Riserva.”

Tommaso Cortonesi, Cortonesi – La Mannella : “One of the biggest challenges for me has been finding the right aging to enhance the terroir of Poggiarelli. Paolo Cagiorgna, our consulting enologist, has helped a lot to find the right balance. Now we do 24 months of aging in French oak tonneaux and then long bottle aging and I think we have found the perfect equilibrium for a Brunello di Montalcino from a very rocky soil rich of Tuscan limestone with big structure.”

What effect do the Tramontane and Grecale winds have on your vineyards and can you pinpoint a particular vintage when the winds made a big difference in the wines?

Stefano Cinelli Colombini, Fattoria dei Barbi: “Montalcino is always very windy, so windy that our vineyards are accustomed. The only vintage in which I was able to note a special difference due to wind was 2013, at the beginning of September we had four days which dried the grapes on the top of the hills, which normally are the best places. The valley vineyards, which normally have mould problems, had a serious increase in quality.”

Riccardo Campinoti, Le Ragnaie: “They usually help keeping the vines less moist, they are helpful during ripening.”

Conte Francesco Marone Cinzano, Col d’Orcia: “Winter winds such tramontana and grecale have limited influence on the growing seasons of the grapes. Summer winds are a constant at Col d’Orcia as we are in the part of Montalcino closer to the coast and have a truly Mediterranean climate. Please remember that Riserva Col d’Orcia vineyards is called Poggio al Vento (windy Heights).”

Donatella Cinelli Colombini, Casato Prime Donne: “I can remember only one occasion, twenty-odd years ago, something really impressive, at the end of August a wind so hot it resembled a hair dryer that dried the vineyards.”

Giacomo Neri, Casanova di Neri: “(These winds) are very important for the quality and health of the grapes. If they weren’t there, it would be a real problem.”

Filippo Chia, Castello di Romitorio: “The Tramontana winds are usually seen as a negative, cold northern winds that brings with it disease and molds.  If in the forest you need to find North you just look at the side with more moss and that is North.  That said Tramontana can have varying effects throughout the growing phases of the vines, in winter and spring it is the main wind that informs the plant when to start waking up from winter, and it can help delay and cool the vines throughout the also summer months.  It’s famous for coming in three’s, 3-6-9.  Any wind coming from the same directions for too many consecutive days can have a negative effect.  The Romitorio lives and thrives in the Tramomtana as it is located in the Northeastern quadrant of Montalcino, therefore as tricky as it might be we are extremely grateful for its powerful cooling effects which are vital for keeping a crunchy sangiovese. The Grecale winds have a similar effect though they tend to be more common during the harvest months and brings serves as a source of cool and dry air also beneficial to the health of the vine.”

Francesco Ripaccioli, Canalicchio di Sopra: “In 2018 the Tramontana wind came on September 16th and the harvest began on the 29th for Rosso. The second wind called the Grecale also blew in to cause up to 30 per cent drying of the grapes. The resulting reduced yields meant for grapes of concentration in both fruit and acidity but also a high number for dry extract.”

Tommaso Cortonesi, Cortonesi – La Mannella: “Both are very important winds, especially in the months of September and October to guarantee the health of the grapes and a good temperature range between day and night for a better aromas evolution. I think they are very important for the whole area of Montalcino, but especially for La Mannella area that is a cool zone of the northern slope of Montalcino, so dry and cool winds are crucial to have a great vintage.”

Lorenzo Magnelli, Le Chiuse: I like those winds as that means cooler temperatures and dry conditions witch give you a very good maturation of the grapes and elegant, vibrant wines. 2013 is a vintage that was influenced by this special condition. 

Riccardo Talenti, Talenti: “All the vineyards are in the south/south-east part of Montalcino between 400 meters and 250 meters. The influence of the winds is fundamental for the health of the grapes especially in vintages where in September there may be rain or morning mists. Fortunately the mists are not so frequent in the harvest, but in case of rain the ventilation helps to keep the grapes healthy. Certainly recent vintages such as 2008, 2013 and 2014 the winds have helped to have excellent characteristics.”

Northwest Montalcino

The passion and the strong link with mother nature of the winemaker are the best factors to make original and outstanding wines

… Tommaso Cortonesi, Cortonesi – La Mannella

How or why did 12 or 24 months, or in rare cases, 60-plus months further become the defined reason for how to make and qualify Riserva?

Lorenzo Magnelli, Le Chiuse: “We release our Riserva 60 months later than our Regular Brunello because I believe it helps the wine to get a stronger identity from Brunello showing a better balance and more complexity. Brunello Riserva, it’s not the wine that you want to drink young, in this way you really can’t.”

Riccardo Talenti, Talenti: “As a philosophy we do not exceed 36/40 months of aging for the Riservas and we do not produce the Riserva every year, but only in vintages that we believe have high aging potential, making a selection of barrels from the vineyards around the company positioned at 400 meters.”

Elisa Fanti – Tenuta Fanti: “The Riserva is a selection of the best Sangiovese in the vineyard. This Sangiovese, in the beautiful vintage, probably has a big structure, complexity and acidity and it is necessary for more time of aging (in the oak or in the bottle), to have an important wine with all its aromatics feature well integrated.”

Stefano Cinelli Colombini, Fattoria dei Barbi: “In my opinion any true Brunello is at his best between eight and 20 years, it is due to the peculiar character of the Montalcino Sangiovese grapes.”

Riccardo Campinoti, Le Ragnaie: “I am not a big Riserva guy, I keep all my wines three years in barrel and I think it’s enough. I much rather prefer single vineyard expression, I keep my best sites for single vineyards. Lately I prefer colder vintages. Warm vintages are too extreme and the wines are not that interesting.”

Conte Francesco Marone Cinzano, Col d’Orcia: “When my father arrived at Col d’Orcia in 1973 he found wine in the large barrels dating back to vintage 1968 (60 month). This was the tradition in Montalcino and still is the practice at Col d’Orcia when a vintage requires it.”

Donatella Cinelli Colombini, Casato Prime Donne: “The Brunello Riserva is born in the vineyard, not in the cellar. The clusters must have grapes that are very small, perfect in health and with thin skins. In other words we cannot produce Riserva with just any old cluster of Sangiovese. For this reason the amount of Brunello Riserva we make increases or diminishes, and so aggravates my sales office. Obviously the perfect grapes create wines that need a longer stay in barrel and then in bottle.”

Giacomo Neri, Casanova di Neri: “We do not produce Riserva, our Brunelli at most spend 42 months in wood. Brunello Cerretalto comes out in the sixth year but with twelve more months raised in the bottle.”

Filippo Chia, Castello di Romitorio: “Sangiovese is a very finicky grape that is really tied to the climatic conditions of the vintage, every so often in great vintages its power and abundance can withstand additional ageing in oak, large or small, and most producers tend to go to bottle sooner in order to avoid keeping the wine in stainless steel or wood for too long.  Usually it’s a barrel selection and when tasting the wines it is apparent when you can make a Riserva without cannibalizing your “Vigna” and without over-oaking and oxidizing the wine. Therefore normally only the very best and most balanced and structured fruit can give way to a Riserva.”

Francesco Ripaccioli, Canalicchio di Sopra: “The oak is not an ingredient. It’s a kneading for the wine.”

Tommaso Cortonesi, Cortonesi – La Mannella: “The Production Requirements ask for 24 months minimum for Brunello Riserva, but many wineries do a much longer wood aging. We do 48 months in large barrels and our Brunello Riserva is only produced in the best vintages from our oldest vineyard in La Mannella.”

Montalcino

Va a macchia di leopardo

… Stefano Cinelli Colombini, Fattoria dei Barbi

Do you prefer the oldest vines for Riserva or Vigna? And do you prefer them in colder or warmer vintages for these wines?

Conte Francesco Marone Cinzano, Col d’Orcia: “Yes, for Poggio al Vento Brunello di Montalcino Riserva we use older vineyards. For the one Vigna we currently bottle (Vigna Nastagio) we use a recent vineyard planted in 2006. Poggio al Vento is produced only in the best vintages, on average 5 vintages out of 10. For all Brunello’s I tend to prefer balanced weather with cool ripening season.”

Donatella Cinelli Colombini, Casato Prime Donne: “Evidently I prefer the older vines. I adore wines obtained from older vineyards and I have bought a sort of mechanical mole to burrow holes to substitute the new vines where others have died. We are also learning the Simonit and Sirch technique to save the vines from Esca disease. We are, in other words, doing our upmost to allow our vineyards to age healthily. It would be ideal to have old vineyards with healthy vines and all with a regular quantity of clusters. To produce Brunello Riserva we need winter and spring to be rainy, summers to be hot interrupted by some showers, September with cold nights and sunny days. Just like in 2019.”

Giacomo Neri, Casanova di Neri: “Certainly the oldest vineyards give us the possibility of having much much more complexity. Cold vintages often give great satisfaction after 15 – 20 years, often with big positive surprises.

Filippo Chia, Castello di Romitorio: “The blend of newer and older vineyards is vital in all phases of production of wines from Montalcino.  The tension in any work is always a balance between chiaroscuro which sangiovese embodies in such a magical way. It can be a brooding dark powerful brick coloured wine as it can be a dancy, perfumed and transparent wine.  What’s great about Montalcino is that there is such a wide variety of terroir and cellar practices that give way to a multitude of different expressions of Brunello di Montalcino.  Romitorio is a northwestern hill Brunello and very proud to embody this aspect in our wines and we hope to communicate this from our Rosso di Montalcino all the way up to our Brunello di Montalcino Riserva.”

Riccardo Talenti, Talenti: “For the production of the Riserva there is our 40 years-old vineyard together with other younger vineyards all around the cellar, where the microclimate and the characteristics of the soil are the same and homogeneous, but the selection of the wine is the result of a choice of barrels and aging tonneaux. We do not produce the Riserva every year, but for characteristics I would say that the cooler vintages are more elegant, even if in warmer years we have produced the Riserva (see 2007 or 2012), but in any case vintages with very high potential. In the most difficult years where even the quantities of selected grapes are high, we hardly produce Riserva.”

Elisa Fanti, Tenuta Fanti: “I prefer the Riserva because in general it is the best wine of the vintage with important characteristics (the structure and in particular the acidity) well integrated with the aging in the oak. A perfect wine to drink old! I prefer colder vintages, I don’t like the wines very strong and with low acidity.”

Stefano Cinelli Colombini, Fattoria dei Barbi: “I tried to find a mathematical connection between colder or warmer vintages and quality, but I had so success. The same happened with the rains. I prefer the best vintages for Vigna and Riserva, but sometimes these are warmer vintages and sometimes are the colder ones. Frequently the top vintages are the most “balanced” ones, but not always.”

Francesco Ripaccioli, Canalicchio di Sopra: “With vintage variation I prefer the oldest vines (Vigna Mercatale at Canalicchio) in the coldest vintages for Brunello and Vigna. For Riserva I choose the vineyard on the Montosoli hill.”

Tommaso Cortonesi, Cortonesi – La Mannella: “I prefer to use the oldest vineyards to produce Brunello Riserva. I am a fan of warm vintages because with the selection systems that we have nowadays we can have a great selection of the grapes when they are at the perfect stage of ripening. In cooler vintages, where there are typically abundant rainfalls, it is more difficult to get a perfect ripening of the grapes to obtain wines with a great aging potential as Brunello di Montalcino has to be.”

Lorenzo Magnelli, Le Chiuse: “We don’t do a single Vineyard as Le Chiuse is one block, so for my choice it’s necessary for Riserva. Usually I’m for excellent cold vintages that guarantee a wine full of energy that doesn’t end by the long aging.”

Lorenzo Magnelli, Le Chiuse

Il Brunello vada molto meglio di altre denominazioni.

Lorenzo Magnelli, Le Chiuse

The last question I posed to the producers concerned the current state of business and affairs in Montalcino.

How are things going for Montalcino?

Lorenzo Magnelli, Le Chiuse: “Montalcino is at a very good health level, we have not had COVID cases for a long time, certainly better than in other parts. On the other hand, economically it depends on the producer, there are those who have many bottles in the cellar and have sold well. In general, however, I think Brunello is fairing much better than other denominations.”

Tommaso Cortonesi, Cortonesi – La Mannella: “In Montalcino almost restaurants are open. We have a quite good European tourism now. The business is not too bad actually. Imperative now is to survive from this 2020. About the grape season, until now it’s a beautiful vintage, but August and especially September are the most important months. This week should be one of the hottest (34-36° C).  The Consorzio del Brunello are investing some resources on our main markets like Canada and US. We hope to give some help to our producers and to their agencies/importers promoting our denominations and our wines.”

Stefano Cinelli Colombini, Fattoria dei Barbi: “Va a macchia di leopardo. It goes wild. More than a third of the Brunello “vintage” has already been sold and there are only two vintages in the last ten in which more has been sold. The prices of the bottles have not dropped. However, the bulk Brunello market (only 8% of the total) is at a standstill and the bulk price has dropped by 40%. Those who have an advanced commercial and / or a large brand suffer little or nothing, while the less organized ones have some problems. But there are not many. Bolgheri is fine, Maremma and Mo rellino benino, the rest of Tuscany ouch ouch.”

Conte Francesco Marone Cinzano, Col d’Orcia: “Montalcino is very quiet this year. Some Italian tourists around. Very few foreign visitors. We had a good season in terms of rain and heat, but the harvest is still a long way away.”

Donatella Cinelli Colombini, Casato Prime Donne: “Sometimes, like in 2019, we had a quantity of super grapes never seen before and so we immediately ordered more barrels. It is a shame that the lockdown blocked the delivery of the barrels and the wine went into barrel late. Unfortunately the splendid harvest 2019 has suffered the effects of the Coronavirus too.”

Giacomo Neri, Casanova di Neri: “For now the grapes are beautiful and healthy, we expect an early harvest. Let’s see what the months of August and September will give us. In Montalcino, given the situation, well, we don’t complain…”

Riccardo Talenti, Talenti: “Everything is fine even if it is really a strange period, to see Montalcino without tourists without fans who come to the company to taste.”

The Consorzio’s members come together each February at The Montalcino Chiostro del Museo and home to the Consorzio’s offices for Benvenuto Brunello, a two day showcase of the most recent vintages to wrap up Anteprime di Toscana. Though the prospect is dire for this gathering to take place in 2021, Montalcino’s wines will and always need to be tasted around the world. Let’s travel back a bit in time. At Benvenuto Brunello in February 2020 I tasted the following 150 samples of sangiovese, 36 Rosso di Montalcino DOC and 114 Brunello di Montalcino DOCG. These are my notes.

Rosso di Montalcino DOC 2018 (31 notes)

Altesino Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2018 ($27.95)

Altesino’s is consistently rich and baritone for Rosso, even in light ’18 and gone in all for one with not much left to the imagination. An amenable, commercial and viable proposition for anyone and everyone to take part. Drink 2020-2021.  Tasted February 2020

Argiano Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2018 ($29.95)

Full intention and focus for Rosso here from stalwart house Argiano in sangiovese pertinence. The combination of wood and a mosaic of ripeness means flavour packet bursts and structural stumbles. Seems a bit wooly and high acid distracted but the youth is important in knowing or at least intuiting what this Rosso will become. Drink 2021-2025.  Tasted February 2020

Baricci Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2018

Carries all the 2018 Rosso attributes that set the vintage apart, including full fruit and old school structure but what separates Baricci’s northerly Montosoli is the sprezattura savour. Wild strawberry and a texture that reaches back for more sangiovese. Very specific to this hill that only a few other appellative wines can touch. Pretty structured stuff for Rosso. Drink 2021-2027.  Tasted February 2020

Bellaria Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2018

From Gianni Bernazzi and a Rosso treated to a full compliment of Botti wood, adding a sweet vanilla and candied floral spice to his sangiovese. Old school and pure, clear and clean at the same time. Well made, not as crunchy and bright as some though as itself it speaks a true vernacular. Drink 2021-2025.  Tasted February 2020

Canalicchio Di Sopra Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2018 ($39.95)

Only raised in big barrels but not the 2500L larger oak used for the Brunello. Lovely red fruit purity and transparency from a vintage that was at a near all-time low pH. Higher acidity conversely and serious enough to use for food matching ability. Just a hint of pressing is felt but it’s really just a matter of de-stemming that makes a push but not a crush. A little bit of whole berry helps ward of oxidation and the freshness is truly a matter of gentile handling. Such a fine, drinkable and complex Rosso. Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted February 2020

Caparzo Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2018 (333575, $19.95)

Though the fruit source is an amalgamation of Montalcino in a multi-disparate form you can’t help but feel or at least sense the Galestro of Montosoli young vines making their way into this Rosso. Wet stone, crumbled earth’s elements and a crust of decomposition meets the cherries head on for a salty and sharp sangiovese. Really proper wine here. You know it, I know it, they will know it. Drink 2021-2027.  Tasted February 2020

Casanova Di Neri Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2018

Giacomo Neri lends his name to the bottle of Rosso which speaks to his desire that meaning is to accompany the appellation. Seemingly combed from Neri’s three or four vineyards dotting the north and east of Montalcino for an estate agglomeration of dark fruit, high tones and great accumulated acidity. Here the baby Brunello concept acquiesces to the notion of strictly made Rosso and for great purpose. Big wine, fine sangiovese, lots of possibility. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted February 2020

Castello Romitorio Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2018 ($38.99)

From a hectare and a half of a Rosso vineyard that produced 1,000 cases. The general matrix is unique because Colli Senesi is DOCG and this Rosso is a DOC though it commands a higher price. Cool, racy, lean, tight and mean. A fighting machine, just bottled, intense and ahead of the impending magic so use your imagination to the Rosso fullest. There a fulness and a flesh behind that veil of acid secrecy.  Drink 2021-2026. Tasted February 2020

Collemattoni Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2018 ($28.99)

Such a consistently fashioned Rosso from Collemattoni, also a posit tug between freshness and structure, always to the proper precipice and edge of tang, tart and sour. Lingers with texture and wood rendering. A subtle wine that gains flesh as it works through the nervous system. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted February 2020

Cortonesi La Mannella Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2018 ($31.78)

Tommaso Cortonesi’s Rosso ’18 is pure La Mannella, expressly northeasterly Montalcino and bright as a February Benvenuto Brunello day. Crunchy and raised with all the land caught inside, the fruit expressive and elastic, the finish blessed with just a few years notability by structure. Promising and effective, proper and precise. Still showing some wood so wait a year. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted February 2020

Risotto, Sangiovese and Taleggio

Fattoria Dei Barbi Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2018

Barbi’s vintage acceptance and celebration is commendable to the degree that 2018 from vineyards ripened for pleasure is to be set this way. Such fruit, sweet thing, like “gardens misty wet with rain.” The kind of tart and tang on cherry and more cherry is what you want from sangiovese meant for the table each and every night. So right, walking and talking without ever growing old. Fresh youth is a beautiful thing. Drink 2020-2022. Tasted February 2020

Fanti Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2018 ($33.84)

Gotta love a Fanti Rosso, for its outpouring of sangiovese heart and in the way it so professionally proffers what you know Montalcino is so fully capable of gifting. The fruit is high, the aging possibility nigh and the pleasure probability at the limit of the sky. All in, together of parts as one, for a proper rest day, preferably in the sun. Drink 2021-2027. Tasted February 2020

Gianni Brunelli Rosso Di Montalcino DOC Le Chiuse Di Sotto 2018 ($54.00)

Gianni Brunelli’s ’18 Rosso’s brightness shines as the vintage lights the way, yet also embraces deeper sentiments, from generational impressions to modern perceptions. That is confirmed on a palate brimming with sweet fruit and a salt and pepper seasoning that makes for a complete experience in sangiovese gastronomy. Just a shake of bitters on the finish indicates the request for Rosso patience by way of a year’s settling. Drink 2021-2025.  Tasted February 2020

Il Poggione Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2018

Top quality reach in expertly crafted ubiquity makes this a Rosso from the brightly lit vintage for all to explore. Take this road oft taken and use it to gain understanding of the DOC, the village and the ways of local sangiovese. High toned, generously oak spiced and really transparent. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted February 2020

La Màgia Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2018

A deeper, warmer, confident and comforting Rosso from the cerebral and intentional La Màgia, a bit tight and demure in youth. A Rosso that needs some time and in its Brunello-like empathy. More extraction and depth for Rosso in a vintage where some frazioni could not do what this is capable of putting into depth effect. Structured for the appellation. Drink 2022-2027.  Tasted February 2020

La Poderina Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2018

From the younger (10-15 years of age) and lower downslope vines in Castelnuovo dell’Abate and located in front of the historical Benedectine abbey of Sant’Antimo. Insular, taut and tight Rosso, especially for 2018 so the feeling is of a site that when these vines grow more mature will surely feed Tenuta del Cerro Brunello with structured fruit. A long linger in this precocious Rosso, so very red fruit and while a bit nervy, quality and promise of site is all there. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted February 2020

Le Chiuse Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2018

Not a vintage if you are looking for concentration. If you are looking to drink it is perfect. From the same vines employed for Brunello but as per Lorenzo’s idea, only the largest clusters are grabbed. “For our culture it is an important wine. As winemakers we make Brunello but don’t drink it every day. This is what we drink.” Aged in the youngest large barrels for one year (plus two months) and in this vintage it’s back up the truck, glug-glug, pour half the bottle sangiovese. So fresh and with ultimate sangiovese spirit. Drink 2020-2024.  Tasted February 2020

Le Ragnaie Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2017 ($45.00)

Still sitting, waiting and I suppose stabilizing in concrete is this Rosso 2017 that will be bottled in April. The aging requirements met would actually qualify it for Brunello and we’ll just leave it at that. The entire fruit source in ’17 is Castelnuovo dell’Abate harvested between the 8th of September through to the last days in the highest reaches. Fresh and far from heavy though there is a liqueur depth and a skin-contact feel. Youthful tang and sharpness with a minor tannic herb-verdancy and good but not that super-sangiovese 2016 length. Drink 2021-2028.  Tasted February 2020

Lisini Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2018

Quite tonal, up there is the stratosphere where some Rosso lie, especially with a vintage like 2018. Richer and more texture on the palate with liquid chalk, wood vanillin and plenty of seasoned tang at the finish. Could use a year or two to integrate. Drink 2021-2024.  Tasted February 2020

Mastrojanni Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2018

The best of all Rosso worlds emanates from Mastrojanni’s ’18, part effusive light and part deep rich tonality. Hits the high, the lows and everything else in between. Good acids keep the balance with darker fruit and silken wood texture. All in with great expectation for 2018. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted February 2020

Mocali Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2018 (286260, $19.95)

Racy, stark and slightly feral Rosso here with some volatility of distraction. Good core of fruit, fully extracted and in that pressing some bitters and bacterials come along for the ride. Drink 2020-2021.  Tasted February 2020

Fried Artichoke, La Sosta Montalcino

Podere Brizio Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2018

Seriously polished, stylish and full compliment filled Rosso from Brizio, very much in the post-modernist Dievole vein. No expense spared to elevate the game, freshen up the fruit and the appellation. A chic wine for current consumption and replete with necessary acidity to capitalize the freshness with a proper “F.” Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted February 2020

Salvioni Rosso Di Montalcino DOC La Cerbaiolo 2018

What is the question? Taking this Rosso lightly, passing it by or presuming anything on just a whiff and a sip would do it great injustice. There’s a wealth of knowledge and character on the nose, a depth not yet reached because the elemental layering is hard to bypass, just as roots through the fissures in the stone will take a few years to zig-zag for to find the water table below. Segued and extrapolated into this Rosso’s structure, when the integration happens it can be imagined the salts and the minerals to really step forward. La Cerbaiolo for the Rosso ages is the answer. Drink 2022-2028.  Tasted February 2020

San Polino Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2018 ($48.95)

Here the loosely ambient Rosso stylistic meanders with carefree sway into a world occupied by the natural and the free. Wooly tannins surround variegated red fruit and the matter is so much fun to behold. Not for the masses, perhaps a bit esoteric for you and yet the clarity is dubious in its own singular realm. Drink 2021-2025.  Tasted February 2020

Sesti Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2018

Sesti’s is serious Rosso but please, enjoy. Ripe red fruit with a decidedly mineral Galestro feel, liquified and run through with hematic and blood orange citrus. This could very well be Rosso Riserva, not exactly Brunello and surely Rosso with more wisdom and beauty. Impressive to be sure. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted February 2020

Talenti Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2018 ($30.00)

The Rosso vineyards here are part estate Sant Angelo in Colle and also lower down the valley closer to Castelnuouvo dell’Abate. The prominence is of sandy loam, argiloso and stony soils to make for a full expression that while holding the 2018 wild energy card is represented as deeper than many. Rich and also expressive, full on red fruit of berries fresh picked and a solid core of Rosso tannin. Easily one of the bigger 18s available. Approximately 3,000 bottles made. Drink 2021-2027.  Tasted February 2020

Tenuta Buon Tempo Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2018

Tenuta Buon Tempo’s is a deep one, first in fruit and then welling with acidity. The fruit runs a wide gamut, from tang by berries through blackening red currant to dusty plum. Quite full and worthy of the warm climate from whence it came with an elevated 2018 sentiment in mind. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted February 2020

Tenuta San Giorgio Rosso Di Montalcino DOC Ciampoleto 2018

Quite the expressive Rosso here at heights across the valley from Sant Angelo in Colle and situated at a half tier away from parent Poggio di Sotto. A well extracted and healthy macerated sangiovese that brings some structure, multiplied by the rich barrels making their seasoning statement. Really like the finish on this flashy wine. Drink 2020-2024.   February 2020

Tenute Silvio Nardi Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2018

Very cherry, ripe mainly, some sour edges and all dominant in a very fruit forward wine. Explores the essence of sangiovese with a heart struck and set into a Montalcino land. Could be from nowhere else and demands drinkable attention. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted February 2020

Ventolaio Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2018

On the high tone, fruit rising on an acidity elevator up to the upper floors of character. A bit wooly as compared to previous vintages and shows a consistency of style that adheres or more so fully accepts the tenets of the vintage. One of the more effusively sour ‘18s. Drink 2020-2024.  Tasted February 2020

Villa Poggio Salvi Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2018

Simple red fruit Rosso as per the giving vintage of high acidity and ease of structure. No real bones, road blocks or requests for time. Play on through to a draw at the final whistle. Drink 2020-2021.  Tasted February 2020

Riccardo Talenti

Rosso di Montalcino DOC (other vintages, five notes)

Podere Salicutti Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2017

Organic, biodynamic and unfiltered, from the then first in Montalcino, at the hands of Francesco Leanza, in 1995. Now (and since 2015) in the custodial hands of Felix and Sabine Eichbauer, halfway between Montalcino and Castelnuovo dell’Abate. Here ’17 is clean, pure, silk threaded and simply put, juicy. One of the longest Rossos you are likely to taste and a triumph for the vintage. Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted February 2020

Canalicchio Di Sopra Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2016

The ’16 Rosso takes all the extract and acidity of the combined coming two vintages and gleans every ripe aspect for the ambitious way that Rosso can go. Deeper and less crushable and truth be told the Brunello appellation is cozied up to. Salty and full of proper tang with seasoning and spice. Drink 2020-2024.  Tasted February 2020

Carpineto Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2016

Carpineto’s 2016 comes from higher (450-500m) elevation than many, is aged longer (three years in large oak barrels) and so 2020 is just about the perfect time to enjoy its charms. This 100 per cent sangiovese off of marl and clay was picked into October and it so dutifully expresses the appellation, grape and territory. The all in fulsome red cherry is now joined by a silkiness of texture because the calcaire and the wood have softened, liquified and swirled right through the fruit. A fresh one from a structured vintage and put succinctly into that five to six years Rosso di Montalcino aging window. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted February and November 2020

Le Ragnaie Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2016

Most of the grapes come from Castelnuovo dell’Abate but some are also off of estate vines. A late release Rosso, nearly 18 months after most other Montalcino wineries. Has really settled since October and is drinking beautifully right now.  Last tasted February 2020

Top quality vintage, elegant and balanced, from the non disposto star of Montalcino, Riccardo Campinoti. His is a Rosso for Rosso sake, discriminant, linear, vertical and come up for the rising. If Rosso can be spiritual it would be like this, poignant and effen-solid good. These are the acids of Montalcino and the depth of earth which holds you firm in the face of a fluent perfume. It’s all in this bottle, fluid and affluent. What you need to know and what you want to drink. It can live for a dozen years. Drink 2019-2029.  Tasted October 2019

Canalicchio Di Sopra Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2010 ($39.95)

Wildly fresh considering Rosso was not often thought to show such longevity, but in can and will exhibit such tendencies. Potential ability is magnified in a dark fruit vintage that advances with wisdom, morphs and settles. Lives and evolves within itself. Sweet fruit persistence is more than admirable, it’s outright amazing. Scents of carob, dried orange and liquorice, now coming into a baking spice place with persistent acidity. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted February 2020

Col D’orcia Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2010 ($39.95)

From a vintage that is increasingly showing its stripes at the 10 year mark for Rosso and why should we be surprised? Evolved and into a next level freshness, sideways, sidled, savoury and yet still sweet. The alcoholic and comforting warmth persists, as does the ripeness of 2010 acidity. Proper 10 year move, just past peak and happy to gift another few pleasurable winters. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted February 2020

Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 2015 (71 notes)

Agostina Pieri Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015

As ripe as it ostensibly gets for 2015 in this sweet scenting and viscous sangiovese with real spice cupboard seasoning and a piquing of gathered acidities. The grain of chalkiness runs through and should take this into an umami set of values in the not too distant future. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted February 2020

Altesino Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015 (994095, $59.00)

Very polished and made Brunello with a wealth of statuesque parts sculpted out of the high level materials presented the team that crafts this wine. Speaks to a very broad swath of place and a perfectly good drink of consumer appeal.  Last tasted February 2020

From the vintage where agriculture, winemaking and now selling came and will come easy so you can expect the warm, fuzzy, generous and soft. Perhaps too straightforward to be what the powers that be call a five-star vintage but if Brunello is what you want or even what you think you need then begin or continue the journey right here. Very berry, ultra liquorice and über morbido. Soft, amenable and unencumbered. Positive but certainly not overbearing structure. A now and through mid-term years drinking Annata. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted October 2019

Argiano Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015 (15460, $59.959)

Argiano goes all in for this sumptuous and unctuous ’15 of fruit, earth and acids long, sharp, linear and long, Big expressive and chocolaty sangiovese with wood a major factor and structure a fact of the matter. All purpose Brunello and so bloody effective. Drink 2022-2027.  Tasted February 2020

Armilla Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015

The tiniest production delivers a very pretty Brunello from 2015 and this Armilla is just the right mix of wisdom and forward purity. There is little ambition, the fruit picking was spot on and the gentle extraction a matter of great gentility. A little Ribena but this is surely a sangiovese of terroir, left to its own devices, without distraction or interference. Drink 2020-2030.  Tasted February 2020

Baricci’s Federico and Pietro Buffi

Baricci Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015

There’s just nothing that scents, acts, tastes or structures like a Baricci Brunello. At the height of traditional excellence and slow change improvement there is so much nobility and perfectly seasoned bitterness that allows this linear and purposed Brunello to rise above. No less fruit than structure and more solidarity amongst the parts than so many others. This my friends is Brunello made the way it was and has to be, without compromise and for all the most righteous reasons. Quality is in effect the highest order. Drink 2023-2034.  Tasted February 2020

Bellaria Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015

Bellaria’s sweet and strange sangiovese is part terroir and part barrel, like walking in the woods the other day, scents of wet forest and sweet foliage in a warm season. The humidity of this Brunello smells like the past, “seems like 100 years ago.” Needs time to hide away and allow the melting, oozing and scenting wood to dissipate and allow the wine to do its thing.  Last tasted February 2020

Remarkably alternative vintage for Gianni, fresher and more effusive to be clear and sure. Shows with great immediacy and tells a story of vintage variation, especially at altitudes like Bellaria (550-600m) and from soils so poor in organic materials. It’s luxe but also so perfumed, pretty and expressive. Just gorgeous Brunello with fine acidity and sweet tannins. The window will open wide sometime early in 2021 and stay that way for as much time as you need. Drink 2021-2031.  Tasted October 2019

Canalicchio Di Sopra Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG “Canalicchio Di Sopra” 2015

Back to prominence for Brunello quantity is what 2015 does for business while delivering great quality without causing any undue relative stress. Both Canalicchio vineyards and Montosoli cru fruit make up the cuvée. Welcome to the beauty in cherry liqueur and outright unction from the generous vintage out of which every extra day meant more ripeness, more extract and more texture. The acidity factor is what drives this Brunello because staggered picking equates to an agglomeration of perfect timing. The true estate expression in no unspoken terms. Drink 2022-2031.  Tasted February 2020

Capanna Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015

Quite a wood compliment to Capanna’a 2015, much like its 2009, here six years later with more fill in the middle and less angst. Creamy, delicious and soft though not without the possibility for extension to drink well into its fifth season. Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted February 2020

Caparzo Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015 (579094, $49.95)

Caparzo is surely driven by the wood it spends quality time in getting to know and the material sent to those barrels is up to the mixing and swirling task. You understand this fruit and its dark cherry upbringing. You inuit the way vessels work through the pores while acidity flushes and raises the level of ability. Finally you get to know these sweet tannic grains and chains that work magic for the fruit. Will all come together soon, or at least sooner than many vintages. Drink 2021-2028.  Tasted February 2020

Casanova di Neri Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015 (85498, $84.00)

Very polished Brunello tome here from Giacomo Neri, a memo from Montalcino, a song in process. A slide guitar bending entry with a spoken monologue in hushed tones and the agglomeration of soils playing beneath the words. If a Casanova di Neri Brunello could sing, it would sway your impression through its ability to conduct business with swagger and chord change artistry. This one just has a way about it. Files a quick flash of fruit, covers it with micro-oxidative blanket tracks laid down by the grandness of barrels. Then allows for it to breathe by acids, leaves for a break and returns to leave it in slumber while tannins figure out the refrain. The final verse is yet written and that’s just fine with us. Drink 2022-2032.  Tasted February 2020

Montalcino from Castello Romitorio

Castello Romitorio Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015 (236356, $63.95)

A vintage of hue and the dichotomous relationship that bridges power and drinkability. A matter of accumulated acidity from a northwest Montalcino vineyard that doesn’t receive a whole helluva lot of afternoon sun. Salty from growing up in brackish mud and oyster shell from an ancient sea. The wood now speaks for the wine as expected and will fall away again.  Last tasted February 2020

Bottled, finished, now as is for three and a half months in. Pretty like the previous declared Annata from Sandro but truth be told the level of richness and power is raised up albeit without any compromise to construct and yes, elegance. The E word applies here, like it or not because this place demands it and you would absolutely know were this messed with, made up or polished by wood, pomp and circumstance. These are some stretched, elastic and elongated tannins. Will extend for hours, days, months and years, open forever, long before it bounces back. Drink 2020-2029.  Tasted October 2019

Castello Tricerchi Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015

Reductive and underage this sangiovese toys with the idea of youthful ambition and blind faith. A touch past ripe in the teasing vintage of available exceptionalities and the race for potential glory. Certainly a Brunello very close and at the edge of excellence were it not a bit pressed and gone for the win. Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted February 2020

Castiglion Del Bosco Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015 (956391, $63.95)

The beautiful middle ground of Brunello di Montalcino expression is graced by Castiglion del Bosco’s 2015 and also because it does the same for the vintage. High level ripe fruit, supportive acids and creamy if spiced chocolate comes across the palate in texture and piqued energy spice. Takes what gives and gives back. Drink 201-2026.  Tasted February 2020

Cerbaia Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015 (652446, $66.95)

Cerbaia’s is warm, comforting and blessed Brunello of fruit ripened to the maximum for the most ease imaginable out of 2015. It’s quite creamy and regardless of a northern exposure there’s no lack of unction from this sangiovese. Drink in the early stages of its energetic youth. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted February 2020

Col d’Orcia Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015 (306852, $53.95)

Classic closed Col d’Orcia youth, nose of earth crusted berries and not nearly the mature notes of what the future surely holds. Though meant to be consumed much earlier than Riserva or Poggio al Vento there’s no escaping the place and the winemaking ways of the house. It is truly appreciated how youth in a Col d’Orcia sangiovese does not mean chocolate or vanilla, nor any overbearing barrel notes. It does regard spice and piqued feelings that bode well for a long future. Drink 2023-2030.  Tasted February 2020

Corte Pavone Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015 (237263, $57.95)

Heady and high floral aromas beget a formidable Brunello of fortitude and strength. Deep as black cherry emits in sangiovese from a certainty of high elevation, warm vintage solar radiation. A different sort of ’15 from the northwest adjacent Romitorio and surely a soil so different despite being so close. Rich, strong acids and loose tannin. Drink 2022-2028.  Tasted February 2020

Cortonesi La Mannella Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015 ($89.41)

Tommaso Cortonesi’s 2015 Brunello is a ruby-red, spice studded star in 2015, high-toned and so very expressive. What spice oh my, what tripping fantastic light across the tongue and so very taut in its youth. Intensity does not begin to explain the freshness and the youthful nature of its being. Need to revisit La Mannella in one year and the 2015 sangiovese it has gifted in five years or so.  Last tasted February 2020

I’d like to say the tannins on 2015 Annata are sneaky but they are so much more than that. These are grippy, layered and nearly formidable tannins. Good thing the easy, generous and lush fruit is somehow capable of defending itself. Boom this is one of Tommaso Cortonesi’s most accomplished Annata and more capable of aging than even he would probably have guessed he was making. Power and beauty. This is that and more. Drink 2021-2031.  Tasted October 2019

Cupano Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015

Cupano’s is a beautiful Brunello from 2015, aromatically gregarious, fruit sweetened in two times ripe ways but most importantly a phenolic access that lifts the spirit. ’Tis a red citrus acidity and a clay depth that combines for ultimate levels of strength and complexity. Lovely wine here and with just a smile of Brett to keep things stylish and rustic. Drink 2022-2030.  Tasted February 2020

Donatella Cinelli Colombini Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015 ($74.95)

The 2015 is a deeper study in DCC soil and Brunello invention. You need to know that the northerly Donatella Cinelli Colombini terroir is more than offset, singular and testable. The makers of these Brunelli investigate every grain of sand, mould of clay and tumble of stones to forge the various cuvées of their sangiovese stable. This Annata carries a lyrical contralto in as much as that is a thing in Montalcino. A Cher, Annie Lennox, Nina Simone voice. It is precise and profound. It will live longer than the men. Drink 2023-2033.  Tasted February 2020

Fanti Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015 (112607, $74.00)

Hello, hello Fanti, you beautifully factual and racy Brunello you. Hello to your calm, your controlled tension and your seamless transitions. Hello to how you say salve and open your arms. Hello to your mind, your body and your soul. Every bit of tradition, soil and acumen runs delicately and with purpose through your mineral veins. Hello to you beginnings, your full middle and your sweet endings. “Just one drink.” Of your loving cup. “In the sweet summer sun.” Drink 2022-2029.  Tasted February 2020

Fattoi Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015 (33498, $46.95)

Always pleasure, always balanced, always proper. This is the Fattoi Brunello world, fruit sweet, energy running high and wine all tolled running long. You can count on this fruit to lift you up and the bones to stay propped up. Never waning, failing or faltering sangiovese with charm and grace. Drink 2020-2026.  Tasted February 2020

Fattoria Dei Barbi Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015 (928028, $54.95)

C’mon classic Barbi here and the request is for this effectual realization to continue on forever, through the decades of vintages and their Brunelli. You come to expect the sort of juice that needs time, more time, precious time, endless time. You look for this tug of firmness, this posit strength and this creamy centre that ties the sangiovese room together. This does not and don’t ever abandon these roots Stefano, always keeps the Cinelli Colombini family’s Barbi faith alive. They are the lifeblood of this wine. Drink 2023-2030.  Tasted February 2020

Fattoria Del Pino Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Il Pino 2015

Now for something set in the purity of the modern Brunello world. Though labeled Annata and therefore fashioned in a Classico estate-driven way there’s just something specific and particular about where this was surely born. A vineyard, a block, a plot, a Climat, a piece of terroir, a place of origin. Has that no lo so of a very special soil, likely fine clay and Galestro because it’s so smooth, confident, non-plussed, focused and finessed. Drink 2022-2031.  Tasted February 2020

Fornacella Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015 ($54.00)

Fornacella’s brings a fine perfume of candied roses and fennocchio into Brunello quite linear and finely textured. There’s some cocoa dust and dark bitter chocolate shavings melting in and they are well integrated indeed. This is crisp, clean and properly structured sangiovse set to linger over a pretty long run. Drink 2021-2027.  Tasted February 2020

Fossacolle Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015

Reductive and immediately glycerin noted Brunello with so much attraction and ephemeral beauty. The closed circuit is anything but a distraction or a problem because the core of fruit purity within is nothing if not a mass of great expression. Wild cherry, definite new leather and lots of sweet herbs in puréed pesto feel. Very silky and powerful though never cloying or obstructive. Very impressive. Drink 2022-2030.  Tasted February 2020

Franco Pacenti Brunello Di Montalcinio DOCG 2015 ($63.00)

The Franco Pacenti Brunello 2015 is an impressive beast. A sangiovese of hearty warmth, strength and openly fragrant but edgy red fruit. This is a vintage Brunello that takes a little risk, knows the fruit has transferred over the line into a world fully phenolic, then exposed to ultra violet light. There’s no hole to fill, no barrel to overwhelm and all the best attributes to gain. So promising and exceptional. Drink 2023-2034.  Tasted February 2020

Fuligni Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015 ($67.95)

Fuligni’s is a 2015 intoxicant, a hypnotizing Brunello with no aromatic restraint. The apposite is true about its sympathy, taste and soul-searching proposition, all of which are served in great restraint. There’s a circulative musicality with unexpected and intermittent jangles, bass notes, harmonies and rapid beats. The barrel is so much a part of its present and will melt away in just a few years time. The future looks so bright for this elegant ’15. Drink 2022-2029.  Tasted February 2020

Gianni Brunelli Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG Le Chiuse Di Sotto 2015 ($90.00)

You can heart this Brunello’s beat from a thousand miles away. On its sleeve, in the air and through the fine sense of sangiovese sense of elixir humour. Serious and graceful, reasoned, seasoned and saucy spiced. Gives crazy love. Opens up, every time it smiles. Drink 2021-2028.  Tasted February 2020

Il Grappolo Brunello di Montalcino DOCG Sassocheto 2015

“Stone quiet,” signature wine for Il Grappolo, from 20-plus year-old vines in the south-facing Piano Nero vineyard, planted at 300m near Sant’Angelo in Colle. Schist soils are strewn with Galestro, Alberese and sandstone, the whole Montalcino masala, all in veritable contribution. Sassocheto, exacting sangiovese, as in Brunello that is just like looking in the territory’s mirror. Pure and harmonious with sly power both “subdolo” and “furbo,” because tannins like these wind in two directions, depending on which was the fruit winds just happen to blow. A worthy “campione” of the 2015 vintage, to set an example for how to win when your vineyards gift such exemplary fruit. One of the great values of the year. Drink 2021-2029.  Tasted February and November 2020

Il Marroneto Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015 ($46.95)

Completely new set of parameters applied and noted in this 2015 Brunello with an aromatic waft that’s off the floral charts. What is that exotic perfume? ’Tis a rose petal and fresh tar, sweet herbal pesto and even sweeter fruit interned demi-glacé. Rich and far from dusty, like the cool feelings from dusk to dawn, if “nobody knows where it comes or where it goes,” this Brunello has the reds and blues to live long. Drink 2022-2030.  Tasted February 2020

Il Poggione Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015 (551176, $72.95)

Il Poggione’s tells a Brunello vendemmia tale, in delivery of that vintage’s generous fruit, followed by a generosity of barrel and all the spice it can carry forward. High constituent parts, syncopated for possibility and most likely, probability. That says age will not catch up to a wine of great health because it was taken care of and will continue to take care of itself. You should pay it the same respect. Drink 2021-2027.  Tasted February 2020

La Gerla Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015 ($76.95)

Le Gerla strikes as always, heady and impressive, big-boned, deep and serious vineyard exhumed Brunello. A mouthful of sangiovese like few other in Montalcino, of swagger, fully formed, developed and entrenched in vintage. Boasting of the kind of humid fruit swell that adds up to a sour cherry, leathery chew of Brunello. Full exaggeration and impression, as generous as it gets, deep and mounded in 2015. Drink 2022-2029.  Tasted February 2020

La Poderina Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Tenuta del Cerro 2015 ($82.99)

Located next to Barbi and near to the Sant’Antimo Abbey La Poderina is a dichotomy in Montalcino expressiveness, at once Amaro, botanical herbal and then silky smooth, a liqueur of digestif proportions. Fruit comes from the top of the Bellini Vineyard’s hill, from 15-35 year-old vines facing southeast. If you are a fan of dry Amari-spiced and in liquid chalky grain of tannic addendum then you will relish this Brunello.  Drink 2022-2028. Tasted February 2020

Le Chiuse Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015

Tasting Lorenzo Magnani’s 2015 Brunello only four months later tells an exacting story and speaks to how long his sangiovese holds the capability to age. The medium sized clusters are picked second (after the largest for Rosso) and ahead of the smallest for Riserva. They are the ones that gift this tempered extraction, concentration and texture. Impeccable balance from 2015 that is the one thing showing up early.  Last tasted February 2020

There is a perfume about 2015, a ripe cherry that stands apart for the vintage and even more specific to Le Chiuse. There are cherry trees planted by Tancredi Biondi-Santi here that mimic or rather the aromatics do so, especially in this wine. It’s all texture and a true sense of the land, a feeling of Galestro, rich clay in mouthfeel and Le Chiuse, the place where the dam closed the water off for irrigation. So much fruit and harmony, between acidity, alcohol and tannins. Drink 2020-2029.  Tasted October 2019

La Colombina Di Casseli Anna Maria Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015

An older style, not so old as to bring out the grey but rather a wisdom, an educated guess, a planned parenthood. Rich savoury excess like few Brunelli and formidable of sangiovese acidity. The penultimate one for this undeniable and tractive local delicacy, in efficacy and naturally occurring phenomenon. The old is new again. Drink 2022-2030.  Tasted February 2020

La Lecciaia Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015 (121905, $66.95)

The vintage question is far from a concern with respect to ripeness and a far more important consideration is more about the management of extraction, wood and acidity. La Lecciaia’s work is so properly executed because the acids secure, lift and place the fruit where it needs to be. That is on a mid-level precipice where structure can take over without much ado. All in balance here for mid-term perfection. Drink 2021-2027.  Tasted February 2020

La Màgia Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015 ($59.95)

Rich and wealthy fruit variegated Brunello here from La Màgia, of blues, reds and blacks all layered and interacting together. That’s so necessary here because the wood sheathing is equally magnanimous and this sangiovese ultimately plunders my soul. So much warmth, depth and deep blues though to be honest I wanted more restraint. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted February 2020

Le Gode Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015

Le Gode farms a plot on the hill of Montosoli and while there’s a level of that elemental push there too is some less than pure fruit, Brettanomyces and creamy chocolate. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted February 2020

With Riccardo Campinoti, Le Ragnaie

Le Ragnaie Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015 ($115.00)

The Brunello that sits on its skins for three months and so sure of itself that the maintenance on that ferment is really low. A testament to the vintage because this is the longest skin-contact period Riccardo has ever attempted. Still showing its teeth and the great fruit of the year. Still, hands off, don’t touch.  Last tasted February 2020

The come and get me vintage but don’t be misled, distracted or misunderstood. The fraganza di Ragnaie is an intoxicant of the highest order from the highest elevations. This is tonality of verified airy exceptionality. There are fruit landings and destinations, from patches and orchards, without pith and with stone seeds. From only six hectares of the 15 total planted and the balanced one, with Montosoli fruit joining Petroso, Castelnuovo dell’Abate and the four vineyards at 600-plus metres around the winery. Still firm and shadowy so wait three more years. A redux of ’13 but in a wholly antithetical way and only in the ways of Le Ragnaie. Drink 2022-2033.  Tasted October 2019

Lisini Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015

Lisini brings a mass of extraction and attraction from their 2015 Brunello, restless energy and a lusty precipice hard to reconcile in its youth. A wine you have a cup of coffee with “until the next time we say goodbye.” This is Brunello of expectation, tradition and once in a while affair. Meet up once a year to catch up and do this for a decade or two. It’s that kind of sangiovese. Drink 2022-2031.  Tasted February 2020

Mastrojanni Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015 ($69.95)

Mastrojanni is an aromatic wild one in 2015, florals and full citrus scrape. There’s no letdown anywhere on this sangiovese, fruit having come to fruition and everything pulled from it’s phenolic capabilities. It’s über ripe and conversely tannic, crunchy, chewy, earthy, floral, all of the above again and more. So much length and more to come. Drink 2023-2032.  Tasted February 2020

Máté Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015

Máté is strong mocker in 2015, high level at every angle, turn and precipice reached, namely by sour acids and gritty, brittle tannin. Not so much love at this early stage. But I can say this. Give this sangiovese 10 years and it will simmer down. dole out abbracci and make nice. It just won’t do so with generous fruit. Drink 2023-2028.  Tasted February 2020

Mocali Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015 (64956, $44.95)

High toned and a bit lean for 2015 this does not elicit sentiments of the top, top terroir. A bit saccharine and intense with hard acids and overtly sensory edginess. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted February 2020

Musico Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015

Musico is at the far end of the ripe spectrum or rather sitting in fences at the edge of each. There is fruit of a sun-worshipped, solar-charred kind and then conversely a verdant group marked by dried herbs and legumes. This disparate blending makes cause for short term gain and gone long hollowness. Drink early for best response. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted February 2020

Padelletti Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015

Both rustic and reductive though filled to the inside brim with an impressive core of fruit. Quite raspberry and seasoned with spice that speaks to the edginess and headiness of the wood staying presently ahead. Will integrate in a few years and drink really well. Drink 2022-2028.  Tasted February 2020

Pian Delle Querci Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015

A pretty sangiovese is a beautiful thing that makes for a beautiful life. This would only be said if a wine causes such a thought and so here, from the start, is that sentiment solicited. Sometimes roses emanate and while that may be a sangiovese peculiarity it is not something only reserved for nebbiolo. The palate too offers pretty flavours and red citrus joy. Might seem a bit light and sour-edged to some but like an enchanted old ruin, I appreciate it all the same. Drink 2022-2030.  Tasted February 2020

Pian Delle Vigne Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015 (651141, $61.95)

The 2015 Pian delle Vigne is remarkably smooth, satiny and silky sangiovese. Plain to feel and see. The quality in this Antinori is undeniable so the level of rhythm, blues and soul is not really the point. The fruit is extended out of a mind of many and not just one so it rolls through the stages of its construction with effortless, lack of tension, ease. Classic steak house or cottage deck Brunello, perfect for men of leisure off the course or out of the boat, showered and ready for their steak. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted February 2020

Piccini Villa Al Cortile Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015 (434696, $45.00)

In full expectation that the Montalcino house that Piccini built will find seasoned and reasoned success in 2015 is proven by this proud and even profound wine from Villa al Cortille. An alignment of essential, recognizable and desirable aromas, tastes and sensorial aspects makes this as promising a restaurant pour as any from the vintage. Consistency and professionalism incarnate. Drink 2022-2028.  Tasted February 2020

Pietroso Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015

From Andrea Pignattai, winemaker, gentle soul, humble man. A small estate on the northwest corner of the Montalcino hill where so few farm that sector. Only 35,000 bottles produced split between Rooso and Brunello. Andrea’s is authentic from the word nose, rich in dark scented fruit but cool climate herbal, almost minty. Tight, pointed acids, direct and simply the right stuff. Refreshing in so many ways. Grandi Andrea. Drink 2021-2029.  Tasted February 2020

Piombaia Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015

High tonality straight away, up and away into the volatile and the inhalant of much repute. Also a touch roasted, like nightshades under the broiler. A bit lean up the middle. If seemingly lacking substance and grace it makes up for that with formidable structure. Rustic and austere and should drink better looking 15 years forward. Drink 2024-2032.  Tasted February 2020

Podere Brizio Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015

Briizio’s is polished and stylish Brunello, perfectly seasoned and reasoned from and for the vintage. Clarity and purity are met with a set of palpable textures; crispy, crunchy and juicy. That’s the crux of what drives this lush and luscious sangiovese. Fruit and mouthfeel, both expressive and adding life, using attributes to the max. Drink 2021-2027.  Tasted February 2020

Podere Le Ripi Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Amore E Magia 2015

As per the moniker there’s a lotta love emanating from this unctuous and luxe sangiovese to make way with the generous vintage. Rich fruit of the red express kind is never relenting and while acids follow phenolic suit the tannins are sweet and mild. One of the better Brunelli meant for easy and early consumption. Drink 2020-2024.  Tasted February 2020

Poggio La Croce Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015

Rustic and woody to be sure, with plenty of vanilla and a creamed caramel note, though there is some solid fruit underneath. With time it will improve though will always be on the side of hot and spicy. Drink 2022-2025.  Tasted February 2020

Poggio Landi Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015 (573980, $54.00)

From the ABFV group of estates that includes Podere Brizio in Montalcino and Dievole in Chianti Classico. Poggio Landi is taken from elevations between 300-500m on heavy clay soils. The is big and rich from 2015, of that there is no doubt though you’d hardly know it for there is too much wood at this stage. Vanilla and baking spice, sweet, confected and not yet conjoined, laying dominantly overtop the fruit. Too much ambition that may yet yield eventual results. Drink 2021-2025.  Tasted February 2020

Poggio Di Sotto Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015 (337774, $180.00)

No less than a finessed coax of pure higher altitude sangiovese fruit delivers the southern territorial goods in 2015. That and a staggered pick, layered atop one another for a stack of juicy, ripe acid and fine grained chain of tannic goods. The seamlessness and positively structured finesse is beyond comprehensible commend-ability. It’s outright impressive.  Last tasted February 2020

The red fruit of this place and only this place is amplified or better still exemplified in appellative Brunello. There is a glycerin derived and in possession of balance, from soils, elements and climate that is unparalleled for this specific area of Montalcino just to the west and below Castelnuovo dell’Abate. The fine shift from earth to fruit and into tannin through mineral bleed and finally peppery savour all works on the palate. This ’15 is proof of how a team continues to uphold standards of these vineyards no matter the ownership or the hopes, dreams or wishes of those who support and also those who drink from the deep well of this project. Drink 2022-2033.  Tasted October 2019

Poggio Lucina Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015

Cheese and wood. Wet wool too. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted February 2020

Renieri Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015

From Bacci wines connected to Tenuta Renieri and Castello di Bossi in Chianti Classico. Here in the south of Montalcino at elevation (400m) and in the protective shadow of Monte Amiata. Renieri is nothing if not wise, well-rendered and compactly designed Brunello di Montalcino 2015. The fruit is ample to gainfully substantial and the exercise one that practices restraint in the name of balance. No demons needed exorcizing because the handling is one born of acumen, not desire. Another classic restaurant Brunello to represent the appellation and the vintage. Drink 2021-2027.  Tasted February 2020

Ridolfi Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015

Slightly reductive and also filled with Ribena and raspberry fruit. Fully tests the mettle and the ripeness factor of 2015 and seems acidified. Disparate and problematic. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted February 2020

Roberto Cipresso Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015

Truly big framework here in the Cipresso ’15 Brunello, fruit of another ilk, talent running through all parts from beginning to end. Full fruit compliment, rusty, dusty, plummy, ripe and sour, all in, all the way. The balance afforded by wood and time is estimable, attributable and accountable. Such a well-reasoned and silky seasoned wine. Drink 2022-2032.  Tasted February 2020

Ruffino Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Greppone Mazzi 2015

A righteous and proper sense of tradition in rustic tones makes Ruffino’s Greppone a prosperous proposition if for a specific crowd that sticks to roads well trodden. Crunchy and earth crusted fruit, high tonal attitude and a linger that repeats the plays again and again. Amazing what consistency times vintage in Brunello such as this can deliver. Solid 2015 from the house built big. Drink 2021-2027. Tasted February 2020

San Giorgio Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Ugolforte 2015 (212431, $47.95)

The second estate of Poggio di Sotto delivers a solid core of sangiovese fruit swagger with more than a modicum of high acid tang in 2015. Tart, driven, ultra-phenolic and on the road to both freedom and happiness. I feel they are still figuring out the nuance and the possibility of the estate and 2015 is sending the team well on their way. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted February 2020

San Polino Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015 (14813, $89.00)

Consistently luxurious and while at the same time of a cure grounded in the natural world. Like salumi, slow-roasted eggplant and a warm pesto of fresh herbs; rosemary, oregano and basil. Plenty of orange pulp and tannin of a liquid chalky kind. Yes this ’15 from San Polino is consistent with what came before but the new advantage and next level formative components will take it deep. All the tenets of agriculture, vintage and cellar work are conspiring to great probability effect. Drink 2023-2032.  Tasted February 2020

Sesta Di Sopra Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015

Fine parts, sways and directions travelled is the directive slowly parlayed in this sweet scenting sangiovese. The purity of fruit beauty is an unadulterated mix of real time agriculture lending a discretion of honesty to the hands that take over and make this wine. No lack of signal in the transfer makes for a palate, a mid-palate and a fleshy finish with fine chains, grains and strains of structure that carry the weight. Will live infamously as one of the better to best 2015s.  Drink 2023-2033. Tasted February 2020

Sesti Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015 ($117.95)

Sesti’s is lightning red fruit meets high acid sangiovese for one of the lighter, brighter and sneaky powerful Brunelli. Creeps and climbs, moves, shakes and graces the palate with sharp fruit, raspberry in tang ways and then earthy, properly volatile and respectably edgy. Will seek and find balance between that tension and the other-worldly umami before too long. Drink 2022-2028.  Tasted February 2020

Solaria Patrizia Cencioni Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015

Humbly submitted 2015 from Cencioni, well developed fruit gentle in mass, explorative in design and calm in the face of dark sensorial attraction. Acids are just a touch duro but do their parts to lift and support succulence, that plus a dollop of malic cream lending a softening and blanching hand. Perfectly lovely. Drink 2021-2025.  Tasted February 2020

Talenti Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015 ($76.00)

Riccardo Talenti’s Brunello is always a combinative, bringing together of double entendre ideals in the name of achieving the great estate balance. Fruit for the sangiovese comes from vineyards both southwest and southeast of Montalcino, aging is done 60-40 in 500L tonneaux and grandi botti of French and Slavonian oak. The vintage that does it all, a largesse of fresh fruit, the earth liquified in sand, clay, Galestro mineral and finally, the most stretched and generous tannin imaginable. The pinnacle and epitome of professionally executed high quality Brunello that never abandons its sense of place. Drink 2022-2030.  Tasted February 2020

Tenuta Buon Tempo Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015 (14856, $65.00)

TBT’s 2015 Brunello hits the middle notes with sumptuous ease, bringing a depth of vintage fruit into a house occupied by sweet acids, fine wood and mild tannin. The work here is proper, finessed and leads to a very drinkable wine. Perhaps a bit overtly refined in this vintage with the hopes for next level cause and effect. Highly recommended for a three to seven year run. Drink 2020-2026.  Tasted February 2020

Tenute Silvio Nardi Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015 (922054, $46.95)

Lovely little ’15 from Nardi that grows in stature as you work the glass. Begins with classic dusty cherry and leather earthy fruit then climbs upward with high level acidity. Crescendoes at a higher point and lingers well into the next hour. I can hear this one ‘knockin’. Great Brunello blues riff and groove. Vintage in, vintage out one of the most consistent Montalcino wines. Drink 2022-2028.  Tasted February 2020

Tommasi Casisano Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015 (483800, $70.00)

A lightning red fruit Brunello out of 2015 from Tommasi’s Casisano with tight acids and a lightness that allows for a breath of fresh Brunello air. A thriller this one, not a killer and blessed with ease of amenability. Tannins build with more strength then expected though ultimately speaking the heights are scaled early and no great amount of time is needed to make headway with this wine. Terrific first five years sangiovese, for food expected and wholly unexpected ways. Drink 2021-2025.  Tasted February 2020

Val Di Suga Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015 (713719, $54.95)

From Andrea Lonardi, incumbent winemaker at Val di Suga (since 2012) and while 2015 simply is what it is you can feel the work put in to make a proper sangiovese that speaks for the estate first and the vintage second. A balanced and professional wine that sets tor table for what will come, next vintage and going forward. Drink 2021-2028.  Tasted February 2020

Ventolaio Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015

All in with all that 2015 can offer to an appellative expression that demands so much. For Brunello this is a weight-packed fruit first, tannin second wine. The drive or length in between is short even in youth, somewhat agitated and exaggerated for the vintage. This one does not trade riffs but gets straight to the point, but that point is set far off in the future. The established credo is all about strength and credibility. Be patient. Wait for it. Drink 2023-2030.  Tasted February 2020

Villa Poggio Salvi Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015 ($49.95)

Quite a rich and creamy Brunello, more wood in taste and texture than fruit from the hip. Some spice and tannin come about as a result of tannin that again, if at first was pressed from dark fruit now seems squeezed from the barrel. Drink 2021-2023.  Tasted February 2020

Brunello di Montalcino Vigna DOCG 2015 (27 notes)

Argiano Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Vigna Del Suolo 2015

The vineyard down below is appositely named in apropos significance because the sentiment is high, lightning struck and quick as a whip. Crunchy and earthy fruit is ripe and near delirious, tripping the lights and adding fantasy to an already heady if effusive substance fantastic. So much going on in complex waves, severities and notions. Will transfer and oscillate, groove and titillate for a decade to come. Drink 2022-2031.  Tasted February 2020

Azienda Di Franci Franca Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Tassi Di Franci Franca Selezione Franci 2015

A true sense of sangiovese volatility marks the entry in the Selezione from Tassi. So much wood and tannin, a compounding of big elements, attributes and more wood. Will need a decade to integrate. Drink 2023-2030.  Tasted February 2020

Azienda Di Franci Franca Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Tassi Di Franci Franca 2015

Tassi’s Franci is antithetical to its Serlezione and it is surely a wine of higher energy and drive. More precision and focus as well, better integrated barrel and length for days. Still the chocolate and the creamy texture. Drink 2023-2031.  Tasted February 2020

Fattoria Dei Barbi Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Vigna Del Fiore 2015 ($79.95)

Vigna del Fiore. Salty number for the Montalcino location and yet this ease of amenability and the way the Barbi effort solicits affectation is undeniable. This secrecy of structure is a house and Vigna speciality and the sauce is spread liberally across the succulence of the fruit. No denying the effort, the acumen and the persistence of unwavering potential. Drink 2022-2030.  Tasted February 2020

Canalicchio Di Sopra Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Casaccia 2015

Casaccia as in the name of the house and the registered name of the vineyard, here a monopole look at Brunello from the larger 14 hectares for eastern Montalcino’s Canalicchio. The idea here is to celebrate a place within a place but without compromising the larger cuvée expression. Takes extract, concentration and purpose to another level, not to mention polish, precision and potential. The acids are elevated and the texture more refined, converse and complimentary. A tightness makes for some early attack that needs time to get past. Quite cool, tannic and intense. Will hit its stride quite far down the road. Drink 2024-2035.  Tasted February 2020

Canalicchio Di Sopra Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2015

A preview sample. Comes from fruit grown in the oldest two hectare vineyard of Vigna Vecchia Mercatale. The vines were planted in 1987 and in good vintages the potential is gifted, not a matter of grand impact but one of the land, the soil, the brown clay minerals and the elements. And so it’s a matter of longevity and potential, not brut strength. A beautiful example of Riserva, focused, precise and fine. And yet the style is poised in position along a line that includes the Brunello and the Riserva so homogeneity in these soils is more than apparent. This part of Montalcino makes this kind of wine and this house celebrates the consistency. Drink 2022-2036.  Tasted February 2020

Caparzo Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG La Casa 2015 (20750, $79.95)

The ripeness of La Casa in 2015 is at the precipice if not the next step where denouement begins in descent. The aromas are quite fine and discreet while the flavours pool in a deep well of full on berry and plum, dusty and of a twinge that’s Ribena in twangy tang. It is what it is, this version of gregarious 2015, seemingly easy and generous but the pick was all you had. Great La Casa is spot on. This one misses by a hair. Drink 2020-2024.  Tasted February 2020

Casanova Di Neri Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Tenuta Nuova 2015 (85241, $135.00)

Tenuta Nuova takes the sangiovese of Casanova di Neri to another level entirely with a finesse and a polish unparalleled. The wave is long and arcing, accruing flesh and fine liqueur as time passes slowly while you take your time with this fruit of natural sweetness and matching fineness of acidity. Truth be told there is a come and get me now quality about this Vigna designate 2015 and one that will seduce early, in as much as the seduced is willing to be taken. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted February 2020

Castello Romitorio Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Filo Di Sesta 2015

From two hectares and only 500 cases of wine are made from vineyards out of which a significant amount of bunches are dropped. First made in 2010, one of the earlier single-vineyard declared Brunelli. “The thread of silk” which refers to the little creek that runs through the forest. A little bit more tonneaux than big barrel and a wealth of riches inherently gathered, layered and reticulated in pocket. Acids are high, mighty and persistent and there is a chalky insistence that matches the energy stride for stride. Not so much a tight sangiovese as a variegated one. Pine, rosemary and darkening fruit, full of sprezzatura. Drink 2021-2031.  Tasted February 2020

Cortonesi La Mannella Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG I Poggiarelli 2015

Skipping straight pass and over the sunless, tenebrous and obscured 2014 vintage it is this Tommaso Cortonesi 2015 I Poggiarelli that rises from the vineyard looking up the Montalcino hill to the southeastern side. Te offer is an ulterior one, an expression in contrast to what comes from northerly La Mannella. Warmer, fuller and without question more precise. Cortonesi has used the tools available to provide it a bigger architectural frame and the flesh of this vineyard dutifully abides, bedecking the incrustation of the facade and adorning the fills of the interior. Quite structured and yet fully fleshy of 2015 density and weight. Impressive stuff from Tommaso. Drink 2022-2032.  Tasted February 2020

Croce Di Mezzo Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015

A slight note of rusticity grounds this sangiovese in salty earth while high toned acidity elevates and promotes a lifted sense of composition. Not sure if this comes or goes, weighs down or flies high. Needs to settle, play together in the sand and integrate for mature times in the sun. Will find the way. Drink 2022-2026.  Tasted February 2020

Donnatella Cinelli Colombini Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Prime Donne 2015

Prime Donne is a highly specific single expression of the most important fruit raised by Donatella, Violante and team. The dichotomy here is more perfume cross referenced in adjacency to more barrel inflected structure. More notions to consider, vineyard dirt expressed through morbido tones and wood scents in gentle baking spice. Quite weighty in tannins, surely a love song so divine, certainly a wine that will stand the test of time. Drink 2022-2032.  Tasted February 2020

Fanti Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Vallocchio 2015 ($89.95)

Vallocchio is just perfect for 2015. Vallocchio delivers fruit like that found in the Annata but deeper, purer and under a gastronomic integration of spice. Vallocchio gives and then gives some more. It gifts sweetness for that fruit mixed with the grain of the barrel. In the end the charm, warmth and caress of kissing tannin tells us not to demand this be the longest Vallocchio but surely expect one of the most graceful. Drink 2021-2029.  Tasted February 2020

Franco Pacenti Brunello Di Montalcinio DOCG 2015 Rosildo

If the 2015 Annata from Franco Pacenti was the bomb then what does that make the Vigna Rosildo? Excuse my English but this Rosildo is the shit. The great shit. Grande. Rosildo fineness is that of regal sangiovese style. Acid, tannin, structure, all together seamless and hungry to integrate simpler parts, make them complex and whole. Here is what should and must be considered one of the wines of the vintage. Drink 2024-2038.  Tasted February 2020

Il Marroneto Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Madonna Delle Grazie 2015

A taut and yet to fully express itself sangiovese is this tight stunner from il Marroneto. Madonna delle Grazie is full of a cherry depth from which you feel the liqueur and yet the reductiveness keeps the wine safe beneath a hard shell. One of the few 15s that act this way, seriously tight, yet to crack and with 20 years of life safely stored within. Serious wine here from Alessandro Mori. Drink 2024-2035.  Tasted February 2020

Le Ragnaie Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG La Fornace 2015

A site in the highest elevation that used to be a lake bed so it’s rich in round stones. Picked earlier in 2015, kept away from jammy and suspended in the high sangiovese zone in which acidity keeps the dream alive. So beautifully judged.  Last tasted February 2020

From Castelnuovo dell’Abate at 400m of elevation, planted in the 1980s. A former lake bed, with clay and round sand stones. Strikes the Brunello accord between richness and balance with more fruit than 10 other houses combined. The transparency is the thing; smells like fruit, perfume and the land, like rocks and sandstone. The bleed of Pietraforte into the blood of sangiovese. There’s really no reason to find fault and in fact there is every reason to breath, exhale and smile. That is what happens when you taste a Brunello like this special single-vineyard wine from Le Ragnaie. Drink 2022-2037.  Tasted October 2019

Le Ragnaie Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Vigna Vecchia 2015 ($177.00)

All the Brunelli from Le Ragnaie were kept on their skins for 90 days in fermentation, longest ever for Riccardo. Not convinced anyone else is making Brunello like this. Fresh, lean and linear but not. At this stage the sapidity is raging, omnipresent, marvellous. “I think when they are young they change everyday,” says Campinotti. Well it certainly has done so since October.  Last tasted February 2020

Planted in 1968 and from a warm vintage all the way to the end, into October. Riccardo Campinoti is smiling wryly, knowingly and confidently after he pours and begins to speak of it. “The longer you waited the riper it became” and the healthy grapes allowed for hanging to mid-October. Deeper and of more sponge-soaked earth in the old vines with a higher tone juxtaposed against the depth drawn by long vine roots. The aromatic complexities run, jump and ride off the proverbial charts and you may find yourself drunk and mystified just from the smells. Once you gain palate entry you are hooked and then you climb in, headfirst, unencumbered, no strings attached. A tour de force beloved of sangiovese, Montalcino and old vines. Vigna Vecchia is the epitome of a true structured wine, one which does not grow old, despite the passage of time.  Drink 2023-2039. Tasted October 2019

Le Ragnaie Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Montosoli 2015

The vineyard was purchased in 2014, 50m on the right of the Baricci cellar. “In my opinion it was good right away,” tells Campinoti so a single vineyard wine was made straight away. Casanovina refers to the house on the property. Another example of a site wine, as opposed to Riserva stylistics which to be honest are not Riccardo’s style. “It doesn’t add much, in my opinion.”  Last tasted February 2020

Riccardo’s first vintage from the Galestro strewn soils at 220m next to Baricci on the northerly Montosoli hill is a completely different animal altogether. The tannic structure is so opposite to the southerly wines, here taut, twined laces pulled oh so tight. Not without the Ragnaie tonality mind you and the transparency, clear, distinct and honest. Not necessarily a terroir vintage and fermentation occurred in oak vats (as oppsed to the concrete for the others) and yet it’s so bloody sangiovese. Blood of Montosoli. Drink 2022-2038.  Tasted October 2019

Mastrojanni Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Vigna Loreto 2015 ($63.95)

Quite a heady and rich Vigna from Mastrojanni, full of dark fruit, caramel and chocolatey flavours. So rich and also youthfully reductive, fruit and acidity thick as thieves. The texture is outrageous, smooth and yet this is the grippiest ’15 around. A beast that attacks the senses with fervour and intent. Drink 2023-2032.  Tasted February 2020

Podere Salicutti Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Piaggione 2015

Piaggione stands apart, namely because the vineyard is lower, lighter in clay and the vines are the oldest of the cru. Lay of the land is 420-450m facing south, taking in sun and developing the biggest muscle. Not just more muscular but also on a broad shouldered frame. The adonis of cru, grippy and ripped, but first from a fistful of fruit strong enough to stand up and be counted. Bigger, more brawn, higher in alcohol, older in school of a certain era, or one that just seems to keep coming around. Stash Piaggione away and forget about it for a while. Drink 2023-2034.  Tasted February 2020

Podere Salicutti Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Sorgente 2015

Organic, biodynamic and unfiltered, from the then first in Montalcino, at the hands of Francesco Leanza, in 1995. Now (and since 2015) in the custodial hands of Felix and Sabine Eichbauer, halfway between Montalcino and Castelnuovo dell’Abate. The last of the cru, single-vineyards planted at Salicutti and not surprisingly the one with most red fruity juiciness that keeps a lineage with the Rosso. If a portal into knowing what it makes to taste the bright side of 2015 could be described then why not make use of this ethereal Sorgente to learn of such things. Voltage, tension and vibration. Drink 2021-2028.  Tasted February 2020

Podere Salicutti Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Teatro 2015

Less than a hectare, planted in 1994 (same year as Piaggione) and as the name suggests the block spreads out like an amphitheatre. The yields on the vineyard are low but through the 2016 vintage they were far less than now because the team have been fighting the voracious eating nottua caterpillar, at night, picking them off buy hand. The oak on Teatro is 10 and 20hL because these are the size that work with the low yields. I love Ieatro it should be said, as it is, indeed dutifully herbal, rich yet ethereal, dry and resinous. Less muscular than Piaggione but more in common with that cru wine. Drink 2022-2032.  Tasted February 2020

Salvioni Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG La Cerbaiola 2015

Salvioni’s is a deeply welling sangiovese with fully developed and formed 2015 fruit and no less than a 20 year architectural frame on which to hang. All the land’s attributes of growth are there in aromatic waves; brush and bush of herbs, mineral salts, essential oils. So much going on, character all over the expression and the sense of pace so high and squarely intact. Drink 2023-2032.  Tasted February 2020

San Polino Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Helichrysum 2015

Very rich and crafty Vigna Brunello here from San Polino, rich in phenolics and chocolate though not so spirited in acidity and energy. Quite warming and caressing, a couverture of wood blankets and secures the fruit. Drinkable soon and in the near term for sure. Drink 2022-2026.  Tasted February 2020

Talenti Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG Pian Di Conte 2015 ($120.00)

A Sant’Angelo in Colle viilage treasure is this Riserva made from fruit grown on estate vines at 400m just northwest of the administrative frazione. There is so much wine, substance and intensity at play in this near massive 2015. It is one with a soft core in its heart and so you can imagine the elasticity, nimble agility and the incredible length that will be the matter when the time comes to right. That fruition is at least five if not to be 10 years away. So much fruit from which tonneaux, grandi botti and variegated soils support the idea. Drink 2025-2035.  Tasted February 2020

Tenute Silvio Nardi Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Vigneto Manachiara 2015

Serious wine here from Nardi, rich and nectareous, exotic and welling with big fruit flavours. The secondary and tertiary attributes can do nothing but lift and lengthen this wine towards epochs of imitable time. Look to open six bottles every three years for up to 20 in total. Drink 2022-2033.  Tasted February 2020

Tenute Silvio Nardi Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Poggio Doria 2015

Poggio Doria is the wild child of Silvio Nardi, a high acid, bigger tannic structure sangiovese of pulse, energy and drive. Fruit substance is high, tones are equally elevated and time will do great things to this wine. Full throttle, edgy, briny, intense, grippy and full of so much Montalcino love. Drink 2024-2034.  Tasted February 2020

 

Brunello di Montalcino DOCG (other vintages, 14 notes)

Le Chiuse Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2014

The herbal-amaro-cool savour of the vintage really shows at the present time. That said the silkiness of the tannins and the later note of salty sapidity shows just hop\w long this is likely to age. Drinking really well.  Last tasted February 2020

Just eight thousand bottles made in this vintage with no Riserva in production. A completely different look at 2014 with this bottle, at the top of integrity, with Le Chiuse savour, throwback complexity and great brightness, surely blessed and pushed upwards for the future. Showing the way it was meant to. A reflection of the vintage and proof of time afforded the vineyard.  Last tasted October 2019

Le Chiuse delivers one of the realer deals in 2014 Brunello, with admirably pleasing and concentrated fruit set against a traditional backdrop of ripe acidity, minor Brettanomyces and full-bodied tannins. As it’s not an overly perfumed sangiovese it bucks the vintage trend if only because it avoids botrytis-affected atypical aromas. It’s quite a rich 2014, certainly a bit volatile and capable of going longer than most. Finishes by leaving you a linger of its chewy mouthful. Drink 2022-2030.   Tasted February 2019

Canalicchio Di Sopra Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG “Canalicchio Di Sopra” 2013

This ’13 from Francesco Ripaccioli and Canalicchio di Sopra is sangiovese out of the excellent, variable, at times confounding and now at the seven year mark, nothing if not profound vintage. Perhaps even marks the turning point for a winemaker looking for his and his family’s sense of place, for a unique eastern to northeastern Montalcino sapidity in his wines. “We are learning from our mistakes,” he admits, “such as those we made in 2007. We are now much more going in the direction of purity in fruit and clean clarity out of the cellar.” Brunello is all about freshness, verticality and depth. The 2013 comes from what Francesco would still qualify as “not so easy a vintage, a vintage of interpretation.” Cold for a Montalcino season so he, his siblings and team passed through the vineyards on several occasions for preparation, timing and selection. “We like to clean the vineyard, to prepare for the harvest,” he adds. Picking happened in October “of amazingly floral fruit, finishing on the 11th, just as the rain arrived. Better to be lucky than good.” ‘Tis Brunello first of flowers in bloom, a candied scent and fresh herbs. Fulsome and openly fragrant, a silky texture, some chocolate and ultimately, beauty. Drink 2020-2030.  Tasted February 2020

Canalicchio Di Sopra Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2013

Showing beautifully, in a calm stage even, a respite from power and now, simply attractive. All the Canalicchio elements from clay soil show up; mild sweetness, furthered salinity and a deep sort of sapidity. Nothing fully pronounced but all there. Great Riserva vintage.  Last tasted February 2020

Riserva is a selection in the cellar though certain blocks from certain vintages are premeditated and in fact 2013 Riserva is solely selected from the Montosoli hill. The perfume stands apart, rising, haughty and full of fresh roses. The expression of rocks drawn into vines from the new age, climate-affected northern exposure are for perhaps the first time in the Cru’s history a brand new Canalicchio di Sopra Brunello. Salinity, sapidity, power and elegance. Truly. Drink 2022-2035.  Tasted October 2019

Castello Banfi Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG Poggio All’Oro 2013 (443267, $190.00)

Already having entered a secondary stage this from Banfi drives the point that a Brunello Di Montalcino’s aging is done for you, first in barrel and then in bottle, so that when you purchase and pop it is ready to go. Earthy secondary notes of wet forest, funghi and then balsamico are heady and deep. The acids remain strong and persistent for necessary energy and life. A well seasoned and thoughtfully crafted Riserva is the final result. Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted February 2020

La Gerla Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2013

Somehow, some way this is how Riserva in Montalcino is imagined. The deepest inhalant of savour and the years of barrel aging for an aromatic amalgamation of epochs primary, secondary and tertiary. This ’13 already accesses the move to the next and the next. It is the epitome of what Riserva has come to mean and carries the torch as it has been passed forth. Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted February 2020

Le Chiuse Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG Diecianni 2013

The ’13 will be released on January 1st, 2023 and as the name Diecianni suggests it is a Riserva that 10 years minimum are needed before readiness begins to take shape. The selection is from the smallest grape clusters in estate vineyards and mainly the oldest vines, originally planted in 1987. The vintage of the great polyphonic-phenolic, elastic and stretched ripeness, by photosynthesis without heat, of muscles with energy and ones that will develop, remain and use their power to keep the fruit alive. That said it’s a wine of wood and the highest level of salinity, sapidity and a tang that is exhibited by no other Brunello di Montalcino. A concentration that is simply outstanding and in some minds, will even be eclipsed (or not) by 2016. The finesse and architecture of this wine are as good as it gets. Drink 2026-2042.  Tasted February 2020

Canalicchio Di Sopra Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2012

“Reduction is a way to preserve the freshness and the florals of the wine,” tells winemaker Francesco Ripaccioli. Sangiovese is better set up and suited this way and while some Balsamico is now speaking through this ’12 Riserva’s voice, much of the aromatics are still situated in the realm of a high-toned grace.  Last tasted February 2020

A year previous to the ’13 Riserva (which will be made exclusively from Montosoli hill fruit) there is the depth of clay and controlled power out of Canalicchio cru vines. The absolute attention paid to patience and time is noted from a Brunello such as this, spoken out within the constructs of fruit extraction and wood usage. The tannins are red meaning they are ripe and request that you give this wine as much time as it gave before going to bottle and then to market. Lush, consistent from start to finish and just hinting at notes not quite Balsamico but something other, something derived from sangiovese grown in the grey clay of La Casaccia. Drink 2021-2032.  Tasted October 2019

Le Chiuse Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG Diecianni 2012

The ’12 will be released on January 1st, 2022, as per the moniker, a Riserva taken from the smallest grape clusters in estate vineyards and mainly the oldest vines, originally planted in 1987. But they were sold to Franco Biondi Santi (and the land was owned by Grandmother Ferella until she died in 1987) until Lorenzo’s parents (Simonetta and Niccolo) began making wines in 1992. Those vines were personally selected by Franco to graft from and plant at Le Chiuse. The name Le Chiuse is quite apropos for this 2012, a relatively big vintage and the wine is quite tight in spite of having already spent eight years in waiting. Yes the nose emanates an intoxicating liqueur and one of deep floral tones but it’s still a bit closed. Some 12s are very aggressive and this is one with the finest and the most balance. Almost too beautiful already so long but not forever. Drink 2023-2034.  Tasted February 2020

Le Chiuse Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG Diecianni 2010

The finest and silkiest of tannins and a natural complexity that has simply developed on its own. Four years ago this would not have been the case. Begin the drinking journey anytime if you can give it six to eight hours of air, or wait another year or two. The maker would want you to do it right. He held it back for the timing to be just right.  Last tasted February 2020

“A muscle vintage, of huge character,” tells Lorenzo Magnelli. The name of the wine is Diecianni to tell us that Lorenzo’s Riserva is not released until the 10th year. Brings about all the complexities that come from such an extended elévage. Tobacco, savour, forest floor, frutta di bosco and frutto secco but don’t be succumbing to depths and sottosuolo because the freshness persists. A wine so wise beyond its years, like its maker. Sure you can release a Riserva one year after Annata but when it has been protected and taken care of for you then it presents as it was intended to. We are thankful for the triage and the investment on our behalf. The fruit persists with great natural sweetness out of 2010. Drink 2019-2035.  Tasted October 2019

Col d’Orcia Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2010

Brunello at 10 years is like the Rosso in advance and then not at all. The fruit aromas are all skin, scraped, studded and seasoned. You can feel how special the vintage phenols were and continue to be, now in their twilight of first stage freshness. It may be remembered as a vintage less than eventful but you can also make note of what must have been great bold bitters and demanding skeletal framing that kept pleasure down. Rising now, flesh in pulse and equitable tacit celebration. Heady and big Brunello from a vintage gone long on stuffing. Drink 2020-2030.  Last tasted February 2020

Largesse and a firmess of being as per the house style are rampant in Col D’Orcia’s 2010, a wine that reminds me of 1998 and 2000. A wine that will seem lean, mean and terrifying in its youth but will prove everyone wrong when it hits the 12-15 year stride. This is a monster bringing leather and chocolate to the table. It is nearly unapproachable at the present time but you can imagine and embrace the possibility of potential. Drink 2020-2035.  Tasted September 2016

Col d’Orcia tasting on the ’00s

Col d’Orcia Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2000

So hard to know how Col d’Orcia’s Brunelli are able to glide so stealthily through time without haste and with so much slow moving grace. But here is yet another bit of restrained sangiovese power, wild of fruit heart and subtle in animal behaviour. The high acidity vintage spreads the energetic love with great and intentional fervour, showing as credibly and forcefully as could possibly have hoped or expected. Cold, cloud cover vintage does the yeoman work for sangiovese lifeblood to send it 20 years forward for all to believe. 2000, baby. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted February 2020

Col d’Orcia Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG Poggio al Vento 1990

Sometimes a vintage of great repute and universal declaration does live up to its billing. And yet this from a time when the declarers knew a thing or two about soothsaying declarations. Thirty years and no great movement save for a transfer to the ethereal, the zeitgeist and the Italian version of said realm. No sully and all clarity with a marbling of strength, as in petrified balsamico and bitter chocolate made sweet by a powerful tempering. Tannins still shot out of cannons and leaving vapour trails of dried porcini dust. Drink 2020-2026.  Tasted February 2020

Col d’Orcia Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 1990

Surely an exercise in comparative liturgies to taste two Col d’Orcia 1990s side by each, first the single expression of Poggio al Vento followed by Riserva. Why the first is poured to follow the second is confounding and then the acidity strikes, the power is freed and the understanding is gained. Riserva 1990, much like the 2000 poured 15 minutes earlier is a formidable thing and hopeful in an attempt at admirable restraint. Though it may have been born in the same vintage as the ’90 Poggio al Vento the sibling rivalry is in. Here the acids are aggressive, striking, searing and almost violating. Even more so than the 2000’s. Though the morbido finesse of the PaV wins one battle, the force and further estimable longevity of this Riserva wins the other. If you could pick only one, which would it be? Drink 2020-2029.  Tasted February 2020

Col d’Orcia Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 1980

Oh my word 1980 carries plenty of residual acidity in an antithetically mild, wholly and utterly unexpected way. Energy, potency, drive and this unrelenting need to express itself. Tight, taut, slinging arrows of tension that make the fruit or what’s left of it almost inconsequential. In actuality there is fruit, namely red currant, sour cherry and pomegranate. Improves with these flavours away from the clay-earthy aromatics and lingers good and plenty. Stays with you, as it has done for 40 years. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted February 2020

With Conte Francesco Marone Cinzano of Col d’Orcia

Barrel Samples

Canalicchio Di Sopra Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2016

Barrel Sample. A deeper well filled with that cherry liqueur and clearly more extract and concentration. The tannins are still fierce, intensely chalky and fine bitters are very much a part of the mix. A furthered texture Brunello with no less strength than most 16s will surely exhibit but the power is tempered by this feel and polish. Quite a potential here for 20 plus years of longevity. Drink 2024-2035.  Tasted February 2020

Canalicchio Di Sopra Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Casaccia 2016

Barrel Sample. Now this is something exceptional. This is what Casaccia is obviously capable of producing, The sweetest Canalicchio fruit of all, to date and with a rising low and slow angling of acidity (as opposed to straight verticality) that carries the fruit to great heights. This will be a triumph and in fact it is already tasting like a piece de Canalicchio resistance while it sings a long maestro song. A soloist that needs no accompaniment although food, company and peace would not hurt at all. Obviously this is more than just the northern side of Montalcino and more than Canalicchio.  This is Casaccia.  Drink 2025-2040.  Tasted February 2020

Good to go!

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Montalcino Sunset

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WineAlign

The confidence of Romagna Albana and Sangiovese

Afford me the opportunity to explain something about Romagna albana and sangiovese. The endemic white and widely planted red are ready to be heard from out of Italy’s Emila-Romagna region, a northerly Italian province extending from the Apennine Mountains to the Po River. Together they form a brave little raft in a sea of vinous confusion and do so differently, with a confident and self-assured tone. Listen up. As long as grapes and wines exist there will be a few dissadatti who will cavort them in a spirit of affronto, that is to put them deep into the clay. Faenza is the historical centre and the surrounding hills are filled with a set of clays so impressive it simply is the local terroir. While more famously Tuscan, it is the sangiovese that come off vines emerging from these variegated clays speak that speak a vernacular of high tonality and power. There may be a tendency to make Romagna sangiovese an appanage of the Tuscan but truth be told it must be considered a varietal world unto itself. 

Tasting at Vini ad Arte, Faenza

The world was poised to change, forever to exist in a bubble unlike any time before and yet there we were, a gaggle of wine journos who had just completed eight days of Anteprime di Toscana. With a calming mid-afternoon February 22nd sun overhead we were gathered at 3:00 pm in Montalcino’s Piazza Cavour, awaiting the transfer by bus to Faenza. “Train wheels (were) runnin’ through the back of my memory,” and next stop on this Italian tour was Anteprima Romagna Sangiovese, the 15th edition of Vini ad Arte held at Casa Spadoni. My headphones continued to sound out, “someday, everything is gonna sound like a rhapsody, when I paint my masterpiece.” Quando Il Sangiovese é un capolavoro indeed.

Vini Ad Arte, Casa Spadoni

While on the bus we broke down on the highway just outside of Florence. Dramatic foreshadowing perhaps because two days later our erudite and expert chaperone Paola Chiapasco announced that the tour would have to be halted due to the spread of Covid-19 in northern Italy. What happened in between was magical, dramatic and vivid, a confluence of wine, art and gastronomy unequalled. 

Museo delle Ceramiche, Hotel Vittoria, Faenza

Speaking of masterpieces, the Hotel Vittoria is one such edifice with a lobby to send you back in time and the Ceramics Hall a.k.a. Museo delle Ceramiche adjacent my hotel room is filled with some of the world’s greatest collection of majolica pieces. The hotel is intrinsically connected to the late great Faenza artist Carlo Zauli who died in 2002, one of the most important and infleuntial ceramist sculptors of the 20th century. Just a few blocks away is the Museo Carlo Zauli, located in the historical workshop of the artist with the permanent collection displayed in the very rooms where the artist used to work. With Matteo Zauli we paid a visit to the clay cellar, enamel room, kiln room and the high and low relief room where large pieces of earth would become sculptures. Finally we forged our own clay vessels under the tutelage of artist Monica Zauli. Next time in Faenza I hope to see my finished work.

The distorted, broken, profound and revolutionary work of Carlo Zauli ~ Holy Moses, let us live in peace. #museocarlozauli #carlozauli #ceramica #artecontemporanea #faenza

The welcome dinner with the CdA of Consorzio Vini di Romagna was held at the Pizzeria O’ Fiore Mio, yeast museum in its own right, fermentative and leavening temple of Chef Davide Fiorentini. The next night in Sala Griglia – Sala Italia with Romagna producers at Casa Spadoni we were treated to 3 Chef Dinner: Cavallucci, Cammerucci e Mascia, Oh Sangiovese, per te la Romagna si fa in tre. The next morning a seminar: “Romagna Sangiovese: Climate change and territorial markers.” Data and main characteristics of Sangiovese from each sub-zone were presented with an introduction by President of the Consorzio Vini di Romagna Giordano Zinzani (who since July 2020 is now the President of the Enoteca Regionale Emilia Romagna). The Enoteca Regionale Emilia Romagna is an association that has been in place since 1970 to promote and improve the regional wine production. This purpose was officially acknowledged in 1978 by the Emilia Romagna Region through a specific law, defining Enoteca Regionale Emilia Romagna as “the most suitable means of promoting regional wines in Italy and abroad.” Enoteca Regionale is located inside the Sforza Castle of Dozza, a little hilly village right on the “border” between Emilia and Romagna.

Chef Davide Fiorentini and his yeast

Romagna holds one DOCG; Romagna Albana and five DOCs; Romagna Sangiovese DOC, Romagna Sangiovese Sottozone DOC, Romagna Sangiovese Superiore DOC, Romagna Sangiovese Riserva DOC and Romagna Sangiovese Riserva Sottozone DOC. Other DOCs Romagna Albana Spumante DOC, Romagna Trebbiano DOC, Romagna Pagadebit DOC, Colli d’Imola DOC, Colli di Faenza DOC and Colli di Rimini DOC. Within the Consorzio Vini di Romagna there are seven cooperative wineries, 103 wine producers, six bottlers and 5,200 wine farms with vineyards registered in the DOC/DOCG register.

Jounalists at Casa Spadoni, Faenza

Romagna Sangiovese DOC 

There are 12 sub-zone (sottozone) areas, noted as menzione geographica, or MGA and also MGA Riserva. The pyramid runs down from Romagna Sangiovese MGA DOC through Romagna Sangiovese Superiore DOC and to Romagna Sangiovese DOC. Yield are set to nine and eight tonnes respectively and wines need be a minimum of 95 per cent pure. Release dates are the first and third year after harvest, aging at least 6 months in bottle. The 2017 vintage was defined by a hot spring with later cold and some frosts, scorching in late summer with storms post “great drought.” The ten days early budding and frosts meant up to and exceeding 40 per cent loss of fruit, with health due to lack of disease (as opposed to 2018). As for ’18, there were lots of cases of shedding, some September botrytis, with a delayed harvest to the last week of September through to mid-October. Forget the consideration of ”normal,” from ’17 to ’18 the difference is a 30 day swing, Then there is 2019 with a wet spring, late blooming, rise in June temperatures and a similar harvest times to 2018.

The 12 Sub-Zones (Sottozone) for Romagna Sangiovese DOC

  • Serra, 50-250m, clay and sandstone higher up (more spice)
  • Brisighella, 100-400m, to the west of Faenza, old pliocene soils, clay and limestone, mineral wines, harvest began late August (balsamica)
  • Marzeno, as per Cristina Geminiani, 100-200m, village of Sarna, clay-calcari, tannic and austere
  • Oriolo, Andrea Balducci, 60-200, Pleistocene yellow sands and Marzana clay, harvest last 10 days of August
  • Modigliana, Claudio Fiore, 180-570m, lots of forest, low humidity, marly-sandstone Arenaria, salinity, day night fluctuations, citrus
  • Castrocaro, Fiorino Fiorentini, 100-350m, clay and calcareous, Spungone, cliff of the Rio Cozzi, soft tannins, herbaceous
  • Predappio, Stefano Berti, 120-400m, calcareous clays, Pliocene, sand in the heart of the Rabbi valley, spungone, silky tannins, low yields
  • Bertinoro, Mauro Sirri, 100-350m, light clay-loam soils with limestone and spungone, harvest 20 days early, salinity
  • Cesena, proximate to the Adriatic, less continental climate, clayey, more fertile
  • San Vicinio, Silva Casali, 160-400m, calcareous clays and alluvial, especially near the riverbed, freshness, smaller growth in 2017
  • Longiano, Roberto Ronchi, 60-200m, yellow ochre clay, some calcari, erosion with sandstone
  • Meldola, vinous sangiovese, intense, dry, full-bodied, harmonious and tannic

The following are 51 reviews, 14 for Romagna Albana DOCG and 37 For Romagna Sangiovese DOC out of 118 wines tasted in total (108 of them tasted blind). If you would like to see all the reviews please click on the following link.

Godello’s 2020 Romangna Albana and Sangovese

Guarda! Let’s taste 100 #sangiovesediromagna @vinidiromagna #consorziovinidiromagna #viniadarte #viniadarte2020 #anteprimaromagnasangiovese

***** denotes wines of the vintage

Romagna Alba Secco DOCG 2019 (10 reviews)

Branchini Romagna Albana Secco DOCG Dutia 2019

From Marco Branchini, located in Dozza, in the centre of Emilia Romagna, zone of Imola. Branchini cultivates 70 sustainable acres of albana, pignoletto and sangiovese. Fresh, herbal and metals. Lime and good persistence. A salty finish with ripe melon sweetness. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted blind at Vini Ad Arte, Casa Spadoni, Faenza February 2020

Merlotta Romagna Albana Secco DOCG Fondatori GP 2019

In 1962, Paolo Minzolini and Giovanna Mimmi, the founders of the winery, started to work as sharecroppers at the Merlotta estate. On 28th November 1983, after twenty years of hard labour, they fulfilled their dream and purchased Tenuta Merlotta. Today the winemaker is Fabio Minzolini. Skin-contact, orange style, of mouthfeel by salve, light, breezy and easy. Good tang, much interest. A touch of beneficial botrytis. Drink 2020-2024.  Tasted blind at Vini Ad Arte, Casa Spadoni, Faenza February 2020

With Chef Davide Fiorentini and Fosca Tortorelli

Tenuta Masselina Romagna Albana Secco DOCG Albana Masselina 2019

Tenuta Masselina is located in Serra on a hilly ridge extending over the plain between Imola and Faenza, upstream of Castelbolognese. It is the westernmost sub-area of Romagna Sangiovese, characterized by soils composed of red, fertile and deep clays. Here fermentation is in stainless steel and a small portion in French oak barriques. Maturation also in stainless steel for 10 months and for a small portion, in French oak barriques for four months. More extract, development and texture. Lemon and lime forever. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted blind at Vini Ad Arte, Casa Spadoni, Faenza February 2020

***** Tre Monti Romagna Albana Secco DOCG Vitalba 2019

From oenologists Nicola Tucci, Vittorio Navacchia and the Navacchia family, the grapes come from the Bacchilega vineyard, one of the oldest vineyards on the Tre Monti estate. Vitalba is albana of maceration on skins between 80 and 120 days, spontaneous fermentation and aging in Georgian amphorae for 10 months. Good consistency, lots of flavour, lemon, lime and orange. Rich, satisfying and benchmark. Drink 2020-2026.  Tasted blind at Vini Ad Arte, Casa Spadoni, Faenza February 2020

3 Chef Dinner, Casa Spadoni

Quadalti Davide E Marco Romagna Albana Secco DOCG Giada 2019

The Quadalti farm was founded in the 1970s by the brothers Bruno and Luciano. Grown in the Forli Hills within the Serrra sub-zone. Fresh, a bit salty, crackers, biscuity, lean and fine. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted blind at Vini Ad Arte, Casa Spadoni, Faenza February 2020

***** Treré Romagna Albana Secco DOCG Arlus 2019

From Compadrona in the zone of Brisighella and vines planted in 1984, then again in 2012 on soils of “limoso di medio impasto,” silty of medium texture. Arlùs, from the Roman dialect, “luccicare, rilucere, splendere,” or shimmer, shine. Mineral start, very fresh, bath salts, cool spring water. Lovely wine and a moniker so apropos of its style and effect. Drink 2020-2023. From Compadrona in the zone of Brisighella and vines planted in 1984, then again in 2012 on soils of “limoso di medio impasto,” silty of medium texture. Arlùs, from the Roman dialect, “luccicare, rilucere, splendere,” or shimmer, shine. Mineral start, very fresh, bath salts, cool spring water. Lovely wine and a moniker so apropos of its style and effect. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted blind at Vini Ad Arte, Casa Spadoni, Faenza February 2020

With the Sommeliers of Anteprima Romagna

Bulzaga Romagna Albana Secco DOCG Coronilla 2019

Located in the hills of Brisighella, on the border between Romagna and Tuscany, a (commercial since 2009) farm of six hectares of vineyards at about two hundred meters above sea level. Curious nose for albana but then herbal, brushy, again curious. Look, sniff and taste again, on repeat. Unrelenting in how it keeps drawing you back. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted blind at Vini Ad Arte, Casa Spadoni, Faenza February 2020

***** Celli Romagna Albana Secco DOCG I Croppi 2019 (893288, $22.85, The Small Winemakers Collection)

Celli in the zone of Bertinoro dates back to 1963. From the sub-zone of Fratta-Maestrina and soils of clayey-limestone. The oenologist is Emanuele Casadei whose family (along with the Sirri) have been custodians since the beginning. Lovely albana with developed lemon preserve, almost marmalada but dry and energetic. Fleshy too. The saltiness works well to foil the healthy alcohol spirit. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted blind at Vini Ad Arte, Casa Spadoni, Faenza February 2020

Pizzeria @ofioremio Faenza

La Grotta Romagna Albana Secco DOCG Damadora 2019

From the zone of Cesena, 230m off of sandy, soft and draining soils, rich in minerals and with good organic content. Lime cordial, developed as if into second season fleshiness and yet still energetic. Reminiscent of verdicchio. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted blind at Vini Ad Arte, Casa Spadoni, Faenza February 2020

***** Tenuta Casali Romagna Albana Secco DOCG 2019

Dates to 1978 from the Casali brothers Valerio and Paolo, on grandfather Mario’s farm in Mercato Saraceno, in the hills of the Savio Valley. Their work with family members Silvia, Francesco and Daniele produce albana in the zone of San Vicino. Valleripa is from a 30-plus year old vineyard trained to single Guyot pruning, aged for six months in stainless steel on the lees. Blessed of a recognizable and natural scent, skin-contact feel, delivering a mild salve, textural, acidity all in. A benchmark for varietal and region. Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted blind at Vini Ad Arte, Casa Spadoni, Faenza February 2020

Romagna Alba Secco DOCG 2018 (4 reviews)

***** Fattoria Zerbina Romagna Albana Secco DOCG Bianco Di Ceparano 2018

The company credo reads, “the knowledge of tradition, the strength to dare the new. Thus the land becomes wine.” Lovely. From the zone of Marzeno and the intuitive work of Maria Cristina Geminiani. Wild nose and finally something to sink your olfactory straight down into. Transfers well onto the palate. Scrapes of citrus and crunchy fruit. Guava and mango but dry, salty and tart. Drink 2020-2024.  Tasted blind at Vini Ad Arte, Casa Spadoni, Faenza February 2020

Tenuta Il Plino Romagna Albana Secco DOCG Albadiplino 2018

Tenuta Il Plino lies in the hills between S. Carlo and Bertinoro, named by the Plino della Taverna which flows inside the property at the bottom of a small valley fed by a rich spring. Some fun and joy on the nose out of this albana grown in the zone of Cesena, citrus, then brightness meets tannin to taste. Maybe a touch of wood, with a nuttiness and faint caramel, acting as alvarinho would in the northern parts of Vinho Verde. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted blind at Vini Ad Arte, Casa Spadoni, Faenza February 2020

Tenuta La Viola Romagna Albana Secco DOCG Frangipane 2018 ($23.00 – Estimate)

Frangipane is Tenuta La Viola’s blast and ode to the past “when the albana was the main grape variety vinified in our Estate. Frangipane is the name of the Countess of Bertinoro Aldruda Frangipane, famous for her heroic participation in the defence of Ancona under siege by German imperial troops. As for its work as albana the almond cream delivers just that, fresh, spirited and texturally creamy, thanks to six months of stirring some quality lees. Has a saltines that owes to this small portion the 14 farmed San Martino estate vineyards. Reminds of alvarinho made in a gilded, salted white caramel style. Drink 2020-2023.   Tasted at Vini Ad Arte, Casa Spadoni, Faenza February 2020

***** Tenuta La Viola Romagna Albana Secco Docg In Terra Bianco 2018 ($50.00 – Estimate)

Interra is albana raised in amphorae from 1.27 hectares of estate owned vineyards in San Martino, vines at 250m and averaging 17 years-old. An “ancestral wine,” alcoholic fermentation completed with indigenous yeasts and maceration on the skins for six months in 400 and 300L Georgian amphorae. Tenuta La Viola was the first to do so with albana in Romagna and to be honest and pardon my Emilian, this is fucking delicious. A little bit of whole bunch goes all the way to direct traffic and steer this albana in a straight direction. Vibrant and floral. In a dogma eat dogma world we need wines like this, clean and funky, texturally edacious and eliciting a soupçon of mainstreaming commercial amusement. Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted at Vini Ad Arte, Casa Spadoni, Faenza February 2020

Romagna Sangiovese DOC 2019 (3 reviews)

***** Fattoria Nicolucci Romagna Sangiovese Superiore DOC Tre Rocche 2019 (SAQ 14248437, $27.05)

From oenologist Alessandro Nicolucci and an estate that has been in Predappio since 1880. Making wine is kept simple for land and the purity of sangiovese to be coaxed and kept through a short maturation in wooden casks, followed by the same refinement in bottle. The relationship makes this special, complex and if perhaps misunderstood, so be it. Tannins are fine. Yes, a fine example of land-driven, precise and hands-off, well-made sangiovese. Drink 2021-2025.  Tasted blind at Vini Ad Arte, Casa Spadoni, Faenza February 2020

***** Noelia Ricci – Pandolfa Romagna Sangiovese Superiore DOC Pandolfo 2019 ($20.95, The Vine Agency)

From Marco Cirese, grandson to Noelia Ricci, whose mother took over in 2008 and he joined in 2010. Cirese’s goal is “to valourize sangiovese,” with seven hectares farmed organically for the past two years and will be certified in 2021. The Pandolfo is from the zone of Predappio, a blend of fruit off of three terraces between 250 and 400m and of only wild yeast catalytic spontaneity. The fermentation lasts approximately 20 days and the wine stays for six months in Grandi Botti. The mostly clay soil at 200m leads to “sweet and sticky tannins,” tells Marco, so a bigger wine with solid structure is almost always a possibility. So recognizable as sangiovese, surely at its source and then a matter of selection. As for Romagna, Pandolfo is truly Predappio and markedly Cirese. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted at Vini Ad Arte, Casa Spadoni, Faenza February 2020

***** Noelia Ricci – Pandolfa Romagna Sangiovese Superiore DOC Il Sangiovese 2019 ($28.95, The Vine Agency)

Yes, perhaps more serious sangiovese right here. Argiloso chalky and peak plum fruity with a light dusting of pepper. You need to return again and again to understand the charm and the grace in the steps and advances. The structure is born of demure and builds with sneaky, creeping stealth. Later on I tasted ’18s with Marco Cirese and Alice Gargiullo and only then did the epiphanies come clear in understanding some profound truths about the secrets bound within the youth of Noelia Ricci’s sangiovese 2019s. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted blind at Vini Ad Arte, Casa Spadoni, Faenza February 2020

That Marco Cirese Sangiovese stare. His Noelia Ricci and Pandolfo are crucial, fundamental and illustrative of what is possible in Emilia-Romagna. #sangiovesediromagna #viniadarte #viniadarte2020

Romagna Sangiovese DOC 2018 (17 reviews)

***** Noelia Ricci – Pandolfa Romagna Sangiovese Superiore DOC Pandolfo 2018 ($20.95, The Vine Agency)

Marco Cirese’s follow-up to his benchmark Romagna Superiore 2018 shows how the structure off of Predappio’s clays can mute, demure and even muddle up this sangiovese so early in its tasting life. More than just a matter of existing in a primary vacuum, even the tannins seem confused, acting milder and middling in a medium bitter pith state. But tasting the 2018 one hour later reveals an explosion of fruit and complexity that this ’19 is surely hiding. Behind the wall there is a brave set of sangiovese expressions drifting overs waves in a sea of youthful confusion. Also a tang and a spirit underestimated and yet they are sensations zen-like in their current inaction. I would surely wait 18 months or more to let this sangiovese stretch its Predappio legs. Drink 2022-2027.  Tasted blind at Vini Ad Arte, Casa Spadoni, Faenza February 2020

***** Noelia Ricci – Pandolfa Romagna Sangiovese Predappio DOC Godenza 2018 (The Vine Agency)

Godenza was the name of the podere (house) on site at a one hectare vineyard at 340m, the highest section of Ricci’s land. The introduction of concrete tanks is surely responsible (in part) to the freshness and reduction but also poor, well-draining calcareous soils that complete a relationship with open-knit and fragrant red fruit. Adds up to complexities and beauty, not to mention the hands-off, unadulterated feel of this wine. At the top end of quality and elaborate expression for the appellation. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted twice at Vini Ad Arte, Casa Spadoni, Faenza February 2020

Branchini Romagna Sangiovese Superiore DOC Contragrande 2018

From Marco Branchini, located in Dozza, in the centre of Emilia Romagna, zone of Imola. Branchini cultivates 70 sustainable acres of albana, pignoletto and sangiovese. His Superiore carries a tang held securely out of a strong entry and though it’s a touch pressed and astringent the origins are clearly from a good fruit source. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted blind at Vini Ad Arte, Casa Spadoni, Faenza February 2020

Poderi Delle Rocche Romagna Sangiovese Superiore DOC Canovaio 2018

From Imola zone and land cultivated since 1995 between Dozza, Linaro and Montecatone, from three friends Ettore, Paolo and Roberto. Fine sangiovese nose right here. Takes the clay and the calcaire, runs up and down slopes, flaunts blood orange. Straightforward, correct and simple for every occasion. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted blind at Vini Ad Arte, Casa Spadoni, Faenza, February 2020

Ballardini Riccardo Romagna Sangiovese Superiore DOC Vigna Le Case 2018

Ballardini dates back to 1980 and their sangiovese grapes are from Brisighella’s first hill at 150m facing southwest and argiloso soils. Solid sangiovese, if dark fruit and blessed by full sun. Yet no roast, toast or bake, just good quality wine. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted blind at Vini Ad Arte, Casa Spadoni, Faenza, February 2020

Podere La Berta Romagna Sangiovese Superiore DOC 2018

Podere La Berta overlooks the hillsides just a few kilometers from Faenza, amidst the erosion furrows and the Olmatello woods. This Brisighella raised sangiovese on argiloso soils is a cracker one of freshness protecting reduction. Armed with quality fruit and plenty of tannin though ripe (acids too) and there is true potential, both from a clarity of learned wisdom and Romagna sangiovese with the ability to age. Drink 2021-2025.  Tasted blind at Vini Ad Arte, Casa Spadoni, Faenza, February 2020

***** Treré Romagna Sangiovese Superiore DOC Sperone 2018

From Compadrona in the zone of Brisighella. Fruit is top notch. Fresh, youthful, spirited. Piqued! Yes, like mencía from Bierzo. Juicy, drinkable and really quite beautiful. An edacious sangiovese if ever there was from Romagna. Drink 2021-2025.  Tasted blind at Vini Ad Arte, Casa Spadoni, Faenza, February 2020

Torre San Martino Romagna Sangiovese Modigliana DOC Gemme 2018

From the Costa family and 10 hectares of vines at 300m found in Monte Loc Casone Modigliana, including a lost vineyard unearthed in 2000 that dates to 1922. This part of Modigliana is located above a sandstone bubble, “the prized yellow sands.” A bit reductive but the guarding and protecting works to preserve a peppery and peppy freshness. Chalky, structured, tannins are persistent. Good fruit and a bit extra wood though it should integrate. Solid wine, salty and sapid, while in the end still reductive. Drink 2021-2025.  Tasted blind at Vini Ad Arte, Casa Spadoni, Faenza, February 2020

Poderi Morini Romagna Sangiovese Oriolo DOC Morale 2018

Began in 1998 by Natale Morini, now from Alessandro and Daniela Morini, who grown on 40 hectares of vineyards on Faenza’s hills around the Oriolo Tower. The sangiovese is from Podere Cà Donati at 170m on soil of medio impasto, clay of medium texture and picked at the beginning of October, on the later side for Romagna sangiovese. Deep red fruit with fully ripened sugars and phenolics, good for drinking early and beautifully without a care in the world. Not a structured Oriolo but a proper one. That’s for certain. Drink 2020-2021.  Tasted blind at Vini Ad Arte, Casa Spadoni, Faenza, February 2020

***** Condé Romagna Sangiovese DOC Al Caleri 2018 ($25.00 – Estimate, Sélection Frechette)

Sangiovese di Predappio by Chiara Condello who in 2015 took over the reigns from her father Francesco. The intent is freshness, effusive red fruit behaviour and unencumbered beauty. All the parcels are checked and the most youthful, freshest and brightest fruit is selected. Herbal, mineral, tart, tight and bracing. Smells like all the cover crops that grow in between and in support of the vines, not to mention crushed ripe grapes on your skin. Drink 2020-2022. Tasted at Vini Ad Arte, Casa Spadoni, Faenza, February 2020

Tenuta Piccolo Brunelli Romagna Sangiovese DOC Il Conte Pietro 2018

Sangiovese from Predappio, from 10 million year old soils at 350-450m of altitude. Vineyards facing north west, “towards the future.” The estate thinking is in limiting the impact of sunlight because of the ever-warming vintages. This frim 2018 shows off bright, high toned acids and volatility. Sour and really up there. A wild fermentative style that many will appreciate. Lightning red fruit, highly mineral, very natural. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted blind at Vini Ad Arte, Casa Spadoni, Faenza, February 2020

***** Tenuta Piccolo Brunelli Romagna Sangiovese Predappio DOC Cesco 1938 2018

Records show the estate dates back to the 14th centrury and in 1936 was purchased by Dante Fiorentini. Then in 1945 gets passed on to his son in law Pietro Piccolo Brunelli. Finally, in 1945, Pietro Piccolo Brunelli, Dante’s Great grandson, becomes the manager. Shifts organic in 2019. As with Il Conte Pietro, the Cesco 1939 is also a wild-eyed, volatile sangiovese though with more fruit substance. Tart and so much tang. Calcaire and lightning. The natural, unaffected and unadulterated one, so clean and gulpable. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted blind at Vini Ad Arte, Casa Spadoni, Faenza, February 2020

Bissoni Raffaella Romagna Sangiovese Superiore DOC Girapoggio 2018

Raffaella Bissoni founded her eponymous winery in 1988, nestled on the beautiful hillside of Casticciano, a natural terrace overlooking the sea in the medieval town of Bertinoro. Raffaela’s agglomerates as an effusive efficacy of aromatics. If at first the palate seems not quite in line, pause, breathe and take it in again. As with the first wave, the perfume dances the second time around but this time the palate catches up. As such and with some structural caveats I imagine this will need at minimum a year to flesh up and tie it all together. Drink 2021-2025.  Tasted blind at Vini Ad Arte, Casa Spadoni, Faenza, February 2020

Tenuta Casali Romagna Sangiovese San Vicino DOC Vigna Baruccia 2018

Dates to 1978 from the Casali brothers Valerio and Paolo, on grandfather Mario’s farm in Mercato Saraceno, in the hills of the Savio Valley. Their work with family members Silvia, Francesco and Daniele produce sangiovese in the zone of San Vicino. This Vigna Baruccia is nice sangiovese. Good red sour cherry fruit and proper tannins. Mid term ager and proper. Honest wine. Like the persistence and the succulence, then the length. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted blind at Vini Ad Arte, Casa Spadoni, Faenza, February 2020

Tenuta La Viola Romagna Sangiovese Superiore DOC Oddone 2018

Oddone, borrowed from an 11th century character from Bertinoro, who loved wine and fun. The label bears the “colonna Delle anella” (the column of rings), ancient symbol of Bertinoro’s hospitality. Early September harvested from estate vineyards at 100-200m, averaging 12 years-old. A new type of sangiovese and quite frankly this is how it should be. Back up the truck for the purity, freshness, energy and honesty. There were 32,000 bottles made.  Tasted at Vini Ad Arte, Casa Spadoni, Faenza, February 2020

Stefano Berti Romagna Sangiovese DOC Nonà 2018

Nonà is Stefano Berti’s sangiovese “sensa sulfiti” which means neither dirty nor volatile, a testament to the winemaker’s confidence, ability and just dumb luck. Berti’s recognizes this work as an ideal, not an ordeal and sangiovese this clean could not be happier. If you didn’t know you wouldn’t know, just red fruit shining bright and as naked as the varietal play can be. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted at Vini Ad Arte, Casa Spadoni, Faenza, February 2020

***** Stefano Berti Romagna Sangiovese DOC Ravaldo 2018

Ravaldo is Predappio sangiovese chosen as a selection at harvest because quite frankly, the cru way of separating his wines is just not Stefano Berti’s thing. He’s a harvest director and a reaping separator from fruit bursting of full-fledged, journey complete phenolics at September’s end off of spritely vines 12 to 15 years of age. That youthful exuberance bursts from these sangiovese aromatics and that is pretty much all you need to know. A little tonneaux time adds texture, spice and a construct that will see this drink just like this, as a perfect window into Predappio for five solid years. First vintage was 2000 for this “Ravaldino in Monte.” Grande Stefano. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted at Vini Ad Arte, Casa Spadoni, Faenza, February 2020

Oh Sangiovese, per te la Romagna si fa in tre. 3 Chef opera; Cavallucci, Cammerucci, Mascia. #viniadarte #viniadarte2020 #emiliaromagna #anteprimaromagnasangiovese

Romagna Sangiovese DOC 2017 (11 reviews)

Villa Papiano Romagna Sangiovese Modigliana Riserva DOC I Probi Di Papiano 2017 ($34.95, The Vine Agency)

Organically farmed from the vineyard “above the clouds,” on poor soils of Marnosa-Arenacea, marl and sandstone. No issues here whatsoever, holding its line and showing little advancement, which so many warm vintage 17s are already doing. Perfumed, clean and serviceable, honest and proper if stretched and in Riserva terms, a bit thin. Tannins strong for the concentration of fruit though at least through now is holding its own. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted blind at Vini Ad Arte, Casa Spadoni, Faenza, February 2020

Calonga Romagna Sangiovese Superiore DOC Leggiolo 2017

From Oriolo zone in in the province of Forlì-Cesena, from vines located in Castiglione, facing west and at a height of 100m. Leggiolo, which literally translates to “read it,” and a sangiovese with a percentage of cabernet sauvignon depending on the vintage, to a maximum 12 per cent. Aged in stainless steel tanks and casks. Liking the perfume and the nose as a whole. There is true promise. Proper tang in red fruit. Follows a proper line. Again gritty tannin but this should morph into charm. Truth be told it is reductive in the cracker peppery way that sangiovese can be and the wood is a bit tough, leading to some drying tannin. Otherwise would be one of the best 17s. Drink 2021-2024.  Tasted at Vini Ad Arte, Casa Spadoni, Faenza, February 2020

Villa Bagnolo Romagna Sangiovese Superiore Riserva DOC Sassetto 2017

Founded in 1997, located in Castrocaro Terme. The Riserva is from vineyards in the Castrocaro zone and something really proper here brings a sense of place with fortifying Riserva tones. Lots of wood but structured, presence and well made. Drink 2020-2024.  Tasted blind at Vini Ad Arte, Casa Spadoni, Faenza, February 2020

Poggio Della Dogana Ottoviti Romagna Sangiovese Castrocaro E Terra Del Sole DOC Santa Reparata 2017

From two brothers and their friend, Aldo and Paolo Rametta and Cristiano Vitali on 20 hectares, nine in Castrocaro and 11 in Brisighella. Santa Reparata sangioivese comes from the former. Juicy wine here, plum fruit, good acidity and tannic. A bit overripe and so three years forward it is beginning to lose some grip but now and for another year it is a lovely drink of Riserva. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted blind at Vini Ad Arte, Casa Spadoni, Faenza, February 2020

 

***** Condé Romagna Sangiovese Predappio DOC Chiara Condello 2017 (SAQ, 14215141, $24.65 and BCLDB, 7664, $27.99)

Chiara Condello is the winemaker for a special sangiovese di Predappio in just her third vintage since taking over from her father Francesco in 2015. The nose on her ’17 is very pretty. Palate strong and grippy. Has potential. Tannins are fine. Yes this is really honest and proper, vibrant, succulent acids and so much forward drive. Five years easy and ten to enjoy. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted blind at Vini Ad Arte, Casa Spadoni, Faenza, February 2020

Fattoria Nicolucci Romagna Sangiovese Superiore Riserva DOC “Preddapio Di Predappio” Vigna Del Generale 2017

From oenologist Alessandro Nicolucci and an estate that has been in Predappio since 1880. Good juice. Not too much extract so no bitter phenols or tannic edginess. Honest and forthright. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted blind at Vini Ad Arte, Casa Spadoni, Faenza February 2020

***** Condé Romagna Sangiovese Predappio Riserva Doc Le Lucciole 2017 (Estimate – $75.00, Sélections Frechette)

“The fireflies,” one of two Conde’ labels made specifically by winemaker Chiara Condello in just her third vintage since taking over the work with some of the estate’s prized vineyards, a Predappio torch passed on in 2015 from her father Francesco. Le Lucciole is sangiovese off of clay soils, treated to wild fermentation, long (up to 40 days) maceration and proper time spent in large-ish Slavonion oak casks. Good tension straight up on red citrus fruit. Admiration afforded the strength, confidence and the restraint. Edgy acidity and fine tannins. Really good wine. A lighter and brighter touch than the Condello with an effusive, elegant and lightning reflex ability. What I and you should want to drink. New benchmark for not only Riserva, but all of Romagna sangiovese. Drink 2022-2028.  Tasted twice at Vini Ad Arte, Casa Spadoni, Faenza, February 2020

***** Noelia Ricci Pandolfa Romagna Sangiovese Superiore Riserva DOC Pandolfo Riserva 2017 (The Vine Agency)

From winemaker Marco Cirese and while his Riserva is earthy and juicy sangiovese, there seems to be more energy, punch and high tones, surprising considering the appellative level. Chalk that up to Predappio soils and fruit concentration bleeding a sense of place and sprinkling cracked pepper in what is ostensibly so perfectly reductive sangiovese. Plums and fragola, frutti di bosco and a subtle sidle through its stages of perfume, palate, acidity and structure. A touch cracker boxy and closed with thanks to that reductive attitude, for freshness preservation and ultimately, longevity. Sees 12 months in botti and 12 in bottle before release. Very, very good wine. Drink 2022-2027.  Tasted twice at Vini Ad Arte, Casa Spadoni, Faenza, February 2020

Bissoni Raffaella Romagna Sangiovese Superiore DOC Girapoggio 2017 ($21.95, Violet Hill Imports)

Raffaella Bissoni founded her eponymous winery in 1988, nestled on the beautiful hillside of Casticciano, a natural terrace overlooking the sea in the medieval town of Bertinoro. The 2017 sangiovese Girapoggio grown on Bertinor’s sand and clay at 150m is so very interesting. Sweetly herbaceous, like Chinon cabernet franc. So good. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted blind at Vini Ad Arte, Casa Spadoni, Faenza February 2020

Celli Romagna Sangiovese Bertinoro Riserva DOC Bron & Ruseval 2017

Celli in the zone of Bertinoro dates back to 1963. From the sub-zone of Fratta-Maestrina and soils of clayey-limestone. The oenologist is Emanuele Casadei whose family (along with the Sirri) have been custodians since the beginning. Lots of wood but also substance. Ripeness and plums, namely Damson. Peppery, ambitious, structured. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted blind at Vini Ad Arte, Casa Spadoni, Faenza February 2020

Carlo Zauli

Giovanna Madonia Romagna Sangiovese Bertinoro Riserva DOC Ombroso 2017

On 35 acres across a ridge on the hill of Montemaggio in Bertinoro. Giovanna’s grandfather used to cultivate a few acres and her father was elected as the first President of the Consorzio Tutela dei Vini Romagnoli. Ombroso is alberello bush -trained sangiovese from six hectares planted in 1993/94, on calcareous-clay at an altitude of 250-300 m. The Riserva ’17 is blessed of a clean, red fruit perfumed nose. Chalky, tannic, in your face direct. No bones about the direction, intent and purpose of this tell it like it is sangiovese. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted blind at Vini Ad Arte, Casa Spadoni, Faenza February 2020

Romagna Sangiovese DOC 2016 (6 reviews)

***** Condé Romagna Sangiovese Riserva DOC Raggio Brusa 2016 ($75.00 – Estimate, Sélection Frechette)

Raggio Brusa, or ”Burning Ray,” a Predappio signature sangiovese from Condé’s winemaker Chiara Condello. From a cru, registered, the name of the vineyard, only three hectares and for Romagna this is more than new, exciting, forward thinking and still tied to family, history and tradition. Vibrant, as silky as a kimono, chanting with intellectual rigour. Like a charred cherry atop a sangioivese sundae, with the splendour or smoulder drifting through sneaky, sultry and splendid structure. Benchmark Riserva. Drink 2021-2025.  Tasted at Vini Ad Arte, Casa Spadoni, Faenza, February 2020

***** Fattoria Zerbina Romagna Sangiovese Marzeno Riserva DOC Pietramora 2016

From the zone of Marzeno and the intuitive work of Maria Cristina Geminiani. Pietramora 2017 sangiovese worked to show promise but this 2016 is something other, something more than correct. Dark fruit, ripe, in balance with its parts, all three, acids, tannins and before that, the wood. Very polished and accomplished wine. Lush. All in and all together. One of the best in show. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted blind at Vini Ad Arte, Casa Spadoni, Faenza February 2020

Poderi Morini Romagna Sangiovese Oriolo Riserva Doc Nonno Rico 2016

Began in 1998 by Natale Morini, now from Alessandro and Daniela Morini, who grown on 40 hectares of vineyards on Faenza’s hills around the Oriolo Tower. The sangiovese is from Podere Cà Donati at 170m on soil of medio impasto, clay of medium texture and picked at the beginning of October, on the later side for Romagna sangiovese. Nonno Rico is solid wood aged wine with a bit of make up and extra work. Drink 2021-2023.  Tasted blind at Vini Ad Arte, Casa Spadoni, Faenza February 2020

Condé Romagna Sangiovese Predappio DOC Predappio 2016 ($25 – Estimate, Sélections Frechette)

Going back to 2016 the Conde’ is a most concentrated sangiovese from Predappio zone and it seems that the style of their Annata is converse or antithetical to Riserva, or at least what we think of in terms of what sangiovese should be. A vanilla wave and titanic tannins untamed. Wow spice everywhere, hot, beautiful and bothered. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted blind at Vini Ad Arte, Casa Spadoni, Faenza February 2020

Stefano Berti Romagna Sangiovese Predappio Riserva DOC Calisto 2016

Stefano Berti is located in Ravaldino in Monte, Forlì and his first wines were produced in 2000. He’s not so much a cru guy as one who prefers fruit selection. This Calisto could refer to “a nymph loved by Zeus, changed into a she-bear by Hera, and subsequently changed into the Great Bear constellation,” minus one “L.” Or perhaps “the second-largest moon of Jupiter,” also missing an L. It certainly isn’t Italian for “it sucks” because this sangiovese is fresh and tart, a bit lean but who could not appreciate the restraint and very little (apparent) wood. A good drink and fresh enough still. The barrel shows up as the wine airs and the length is quite good. Drink 2021-2024.  Tasted blind at Vini Ad Arte, Casa Spadoni, Faenza February 2020

Tenuta La Viola Romagna Sangiovese Bertinoro DOC P. Honorii 2016 ($23.00 – Estimate)

From the Gabellini family in Bertinioro, organic and biodynamic. Like fresh squeezed blood orange juice. A proper freshness just now heading over to the other side. Good acidity, fading tannin. More elegant and less humid than the 2015 tasted table-side later that day. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted blind at Vini Ad Arte, Casa Spadoni, Faenza February 2020

Good to go!

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WineAlign

Please reach out to California and a Mondavi retrospective at To Kalon

Give a view an arch and he’ll ask you to stay for dinner #tokalon2017

Update: As much as 900,000 further acres have been lost to fire since September 14th and because of the recent Glass Fire there have been many evacuation orders for parts of Sonoma and Napa counties. As of today nearly 66,000 acres have burned. Three fires had merged, resulting in one big fire initially threatening Napa Valley and Santa Rosa. Thank goodness the containment has now reached 30 per cent but there is still a long way to go. The road to recovery will be even longer so please consider donating to help all the families, businesses and first responders.

Related – California Update: Napa Valley

The Napa Valley Community Disaster Relief Fund and Sonoma County Resilience Fund

Provides gift cards to evacuees and emergency relief services to those affected by the fire, including temporary shelter, meals, counselling and assistance in navigating insurance claims.

Wine Country Fire Relief Fundraiser

A gofundme campaign, launched by five wine industry marketing professionals, focuses on direct relief for farmworkers (a vital part of the wine industry’s fabric) affected by the Glass Fire Incident in Napa and Sonoma Counties.

California Wildfire Relief

Supports firefighters, low income families and animals that are suffering due to wildfires. It helps provide emergency supplies including food, water and medicine.

Latino Community Foundation

Distributes contributions to Latino-led organizations that are helping families displaced by wildfires across the state.

Women’s Foundation California Relief and Resilience Fund

Funding goes to every domestic violence shelter in the state to help care for survivors who are unhoused or feel unsafe.

Thank you to Karen MacNeil for her update and for sharing these words from Linda Reiff, President of Napa Valley Vintners:

“We are deeply grateful for the tremendous care from around the world, and for the hard work and dedication of fire fighters, first responders and volunteers who are here from near and far to help us.  At our core, we are a strong, agricultural community where grapes have been grown and wines made for more than 150 years. The Napa Valley is still here, our community spirit is fierce, we will get through and beyond this.”

We’re worried about all of you in northern California. Please stay safe.

Recalling simpler times

My last visit to To Kalon Vineyard was three and a half years ago, Oakville site of that consequential plottage, koan of sorts, most excellent agglomerate of soil, vine and canopy. To Kalon functions as an enigmatic invitation to rethink the meaning of wine, so speaking of The Robert Mondavi Winery and Arterra Wines Canada, enlightened educator Mark de Vere MW will soon be moderating a virtual tasting with Constellation Brands winemakers Thomas Rivers Brown and Carol Shrader. In a couple of weeks time, on Friday, October 9 at 1:00 pm (EST). I will be participating and tasting 2017 and 2018 Double Diamond Cabernet Sauvignon. The plan will be to explore the vast diversity and fine quality of the Oakville terroir and To Kalon Vineyard. Which brings me back to May of 2017 and a week spent in Napa Valley completing the Robert Mondavi Winery To Kalon Vineyard certification program.

There were cellar tastings, Chef Jeff Mosher prepared dinners, hot air balloon flights, vineyard cycling tours, UC Davis research investigations and most enriching seminars led by Director of Wine Education De Vere and winemaker Geneviève Janssens. Inside The CIA (Culinary Institute of America) at Copia, Napa classrooms the sessions taught included west coast, global and To Kalon examples of cabernet sauvignon. The Napa Valley panelist apprised cabernet sauvignon flights were filled with archetypes, icons and Mondavi retrospectives. Rarely does one get to go at so many learning tools and experiential gifts of history through such an array of high quality varietal wines. De Vere made a request by asking everyone to dig deep, do some soul searching and get to the bottom of the new versus old world paradigm. “Let’s get an unbiased impression of what the differences are and what might make them different. California has reliably dry summers but much more day/night diurnal temperature fluctuations. Bordeaux stays warm at night and thus differing ripening patters. Napa significantly more sunshine hours but not necessarily more total heat.”

Related – En route to Mondavi

#tokalon

Then the vineyard’s prodigy spoke. Graeme MacDonald’s experience and published work have by now made him THE historian of Napa Valley’s famed To Kalon Vineyard area near Oakville. MacDonald is a To Kalon farmer who has written a history of the famed grape growing area for the Historic American Landscapes Survey. His work is part of the Library of Congress. The vineyard was started in 1868 by Hamilton W. Crabb, an innovator in wine marketing and vineyard techniques while today the Robert Mondavi Winery, University of California Davis and Andy Beckstoffer control most of its land. For McDonald To Kalon is simply a place entwined with his family’s history. 

Start raising a child 100 years before they are born because that’s when you begin to prepare the environment they will be born into. #tokalon #graememacdonald #tokalon2017 #tokalonvineyard

“It was really for me a great way to document the history for our children. I want to leave something that explains why I am so passionate about it,” MacDonald said. “Start raising a child 100 years before their birth because that’s when you begin to prepare the environment they will be born into.” The Wappo people called it “Tu-ia-halusi, or ”beautiful land” to describe the upper Napa Valley. The name To Kalon is Greek for “highest beauty,” or the “highest good,” as per H.W. Crabb in 1889.   “I try to make it mean the boss vineyard,” says McDonald. Also a pivotal part in Aristotle and the most important (and first) wine poured in the time of Jesus. This from the most important winemaker in the history of Napa. It took 100 years after it was predicted by Crabb but that is when Graeme’s grandfather committed to Cabernet Sauvignon (circa 1978). The family wines were labeled under the name Detert Vineyards.

Flight #1

Global Styles

Château D’Issan 2013, AC Margaux, Bordeaux, France (511469, $114.00, WineAlign)

Tasted blind in Napa, the first impression is Chile due to the capsicum bite and wood that expresses as savour and piquancy. Herbal with currants and tobacco. Impressive smoky wood integration overtop gamey, Bretty, animale character which talks a Bordeaux vernacular. Fruit is subtle, restrained and waits for the finish. It’s Bordeaux, or course. Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted May 2017

#metaphysicalmonday #cliffmay #thenostalgiaoftheinfinite #dichirico #campanile #missionstyle

Concha Y Toro Cabernet Sauvignon Terrunyo Las Terrazas Block, Andes Pirque Vineyard 2013, Maipo Valley, Chile (562918, $29.95, WineAlign, Escalade Wines)

Now a slight demure, dusty but cool, minty, creosote and graphite, like Coonawarra perhaps. Some granite soil funk so could also be South Africa and yet there is this very high acidity and eucalyptus. The aesthetic is more about fruit than tannic structure. Some carménère in here likely – the smoky edge would say so. It’s Chile because the herbs and black currants dominate so clearly from a warm part, i.e. Maipo. Last tasted blind in Napa Valley, May 2016

Big floral vintage for the single-vineyard Terrunyo cabernet, rich, lush and hedonism defined. The varietal stands out in the vintage with the heavy lean to fresh flowers, along with the waves of alternating blackberry and Cassis. The alcohol and the weight are certainly formidable but the aromatics and fruit heavy tonality keeps up with the heat. Big boned and barrel conscious, this CyT is a big wine for a modest price. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted August 2016

Mark de Vere MW

Mollydooker Cabernet Sauvignon Gigglepot 2013, McLaren Vale, South Australia, Australia (SAQ 12449825, $54.00, Breakthru Bev Canada)

Ripe, high acidity, elevated tones and dark fruit. More like Argentina here and the palate also suggests Bordeaux but it’s too ripe. The high acid, metafictional mochafication and extreme ripeness puts my guess in McLaren Vale but also because of the richness and ripeness. Some dark red fruit is exceptional, part dried, with liquorice, both red and black. Really lovely wine, juicy, with a high level of fruit from some great vineyards. A genuine product of Sarah and Sparky Marquis from which 16 per cent alcohol is pulled off with remarkable ease, with thanks to tannic structure and extract. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted blind in Napa Valley, May 2017

Me and Mondavi

Stark-Condé Cabernet Sauvignon Three Pines 2013, Jonkershoek Valley, WO Coastal Region, South Africa (288316, $28.85, Vonterra)

This seems the most Californian but Alexander Valley in its current of currant and savour. Tastes like Clos du Bois, but we’re now in South Africa. Quite anti-reductive, little to do with granite, funky soil and rubber tree plants, but it hints at all this from Stellenbosch. like juicing liquorice, bokser and umeboshi plum mixed into Ribena for a juicy cocktail. This may be closer to Cali than the rest because of the supple triumvirate of fruit-acid-tannin for structure. Terrific representation from the Jonkershoek Valley. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted blind in Napa Valley, May 2017

Flight #2

West Coast California

Justin Vineyards Isosceles 2015, Paso Robles, California (684282, $136.95, The Vine Agency)

Quite the Cassis richness and genteel nature, ripe but of a humble extraction with a distinct garrigue note. Very Napa-ilke though there is a high love of acidity. Tasted blind you might think it could very well be a Mondavi but it’s too jammy and there is a plethora of red fruit purée,. That it turns out to be from Paso Robles is a perfect example to show that further south can translate to a warmer climate… but not always. Cool nights are adding their own extreme example of diurnal temperature swings so that 16.0 per cent alcohol, coulis and acidity can coexist. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted May 2017

Chef Jeff Mosher’s Fresh Spring Pea Risotto at Mondavi

Ridge Estate Cabernet Sauvignon Monte Bello Vineyard 2013, Santa Cruz Mountains (89284, $86.95, Rogers and Company)

Quite savoury with Mediterranean accents, black olive and brine, cool and minty, seemingly accented with American oak. A cloudy moments suggests Alexander Valley, but clarity wins so better still Santa Cruz Mountains. So is this a Ridge? Elegant cabernet sauvignon, 75 per cent with merlot and bits of petit verdot and cabernet franc. Positioned to an ocean proximity overhanging Monterey Bay and above most of the fog so the growing climate is its own. Keeps sugar and alcohol down for a cool and elegant expression. Last tasted blind in Napa Valley, May 2017

From the next arid vintage with more immunity always gifted by the Santa Cruz Mountains terroir so that Ridge can do what they want and what is needed. Three-quarters cabernet sauvignon, 20 per cent merlot and quick Pollockian slashes of petit verdot and cabernet franc meet in the studio to create and complete the piece. There is more acidity and tension on the nose than noted in 2012, with red currants and black fruit swirling in coulis centrifuge to distract from what wants to grip and tear you away. The purity and cool texture of a Ridge cabernet is unlike any other; it stretches this way and that, never breaking, tearing or shearing but not because is has been patched, quilted or restored. It was always this way and will stay so for 15 to 20 years. Tannins are fine and support what happens, in any way they are asked to do. Drink 2020-2033.  Tasted April 2017

Tacos at Morimoto

Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, Alexander Valley, Sonoma County ($80.00)

A bit of demure, lots of black fruit and a note or orange rind. Again terrific acidity, and tart, crisp, chocolate edging. Sensing a combination of oaks in that chemistry effect when merging into the fruit of Alexander Valley. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted May 2017

Robert Mondavi Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, (255513, $44.95)

The aridity of 2013 has now translated into some lovely development in bottle that trials and tribulates with its wealthy pool of rich, ripe and silky chocolate texture. Such a typically reasoned Napa Valley explanation with 47 years under its increscent belt. Serious tannins need five years to seek settlement and to carry structure for to build a home for the ripe fruit. At 14.8 per cent alcohol there is much to fuel and keep the abode bathed in warmth, along with American oak in pancetta ooze, augmented by smoke and spice. Chewy and huge. Drink 2018-2024. Tasted February and June 2016, May 2017

Bob Swanson of #napavalleyballoons is the man. Slice through butter flight over the Sacramento Valley to 1000 ft, #splashanddash in Putah Creek and a smooth, exacting landing on a dime on the back of a flatbed.

Seven Hills Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, Walla Walla Valley, Washington

Drawn from Seven Hills’ founding blocks, planted by winemaker Casey McClellan and his father in the early 1980s. Very ripe, rich and unctuous aromatics, also floral, big tannic structure, candied complexion with mint chocolate candy cane and yet its aridity dominates the back side. Continental climate with maritime overtones in a Walla Walla cabernet under the influence of the rain shadow. Drink 2018-2025.  Tasted May 2017

Flight #3

Napa Rocks

Inherit The Sheep Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, Coombsville AVA

Inherit The Sheep, a multi-play on words, launching point “the meek shall inherit the earth,” followed by “the farmers shall inherit the sheep” and prophesied as Clay and Tersilla Gregory may never inherit anything else in their lives. As for cabernet sauvignon, Coombsville just seems to be a natural extension from the concept of Napa Rocks. As Mondavi’s Mark de Vere made sure to point out, “the reputation of Napa comes form the quality of the wine made here, not the quantity.” About 150 million years ago a domino of events began to occur…ocean plate under the continental plate….volcanic influence and marine rock. A mish-mash, super geological group of alloy musicians. Coomsville gets it too, exemplified by this rich, highly perfumed aromatic cabernet, soil a major factor in the duality of tart meets tang, some dried herbs and dusty, chalky tannins. As a memory, Clay Gregory used to be a GM at Mondavi. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted May 2017

The meek shall? Focused alternative #napavalley AVA expression #tokalon2017 #coombsville

Chimney Rock Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, Stags Leap District, Napa Valley (731810, $76.75, Mondia Alliance)

Deeper, higher tonality and lifted though it’s from liqueur and not acidity necessarily. So much chocolate, perhaps dominant by American oak but also a comestible layering and pressing that comes by ripe and concentrated fruit out of Stags Leap District. East side of the valley, volcanic and alluvial, so perhaps the place and its victuals speak loudest, dark chocolate and red cherry, quite chewy and with middle palate tannin, focused and lined. Drink 2019-2026. Tasted May 2017

Robert Mondavi Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon (West To Kalon Vineyard) 2013, Napa Valley

Very juicy, acidity driven, extraction and high level tonality. A fineness discerned with immediate notice, layer upon layer of distinction and elegance. Tasting blind it could be the Mondavi Reserve, acidity is very present balanced by plush fruit ripeness, blacker than red, slightly savoury and so Oakville. Turns out it is west To Kalon Vineyard though not labeled as such. For Graeme McDonald “it tastes like home.” Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted May 2017

With Sara d’Amato

Tres Sabores Cabernet Sauvignon Perspective 2013, Rutherford

The jam is in, a bit to the right of ripeness and so a left leaning structure. Already noting some balsamic, soy and even a faint tick of truffle, not quite raisin but there is an indication it’s beginning is around the corner. Tthe palate brings more energy but this lacks balance because the fruit is overripe. Three flavours. Rutherford Bench fruit. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted May 2017

Cade Estate Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon 2014, Napa Valley (325027, $206.95, The Vine Agency)

Classic next level Napa Valley depth, structure and intendment. Full on welling sunken weight, oak very much apart of every moment but not overly spiced. Through that big oak bent there is something akin or at least draws memories to Atlas Mountain. Incredibly ripe with aggressive, thick, needing 10 years to devolve tannins. Could be Atlas but is in fact Howell Mountain, one of the eastern AVAs from which mountain fruit delivers more intensity of tannin. Drink 2020-2030.  Tasted May 2017

Flight #4

Oakville

Tierra Roja Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, Oakville, Napa Valley
From Linda Neal, long-time vineyard manager who purchased the Oakville property in 1987. A distinctly perfumed-floral cabernet sauvignon, of violets, but also a dusty, silty-salty mineral aroma. Terrific acidity, just terrific, the type of tart intensity that causes anticipatory salivation. Reminds of cabs off of Terra Rossa soil, a.k.a. Coonawarra but also the Panzano terroir of Carobbio. Geologically it’s volcanic in origin, off of a hillside vineyard. Intense and offering a fully focused commitment straight through the finish. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted May 2017

Groth Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2013, Oakville, Napa Valley ($179.95, The Vine Agency)

Richness but reserved, demure, unhurried in a calm state. More of an exotic perfume, jasmine and bougainvillea, still some salty grit and certainly mineral but fuller, with an ooze of dark chocolate and body politic by firmness and tannin. Beneficial bitters on the finish. It’s way, way too young to fully appreciate. Special fruit is saved for this next level cabernet sauvignon from its very own patch of free-draining alluvial soil. Drink 2020-2028.  Tasted May 2017

Geneviève Janssens and Mark De Vere MW

Franciscan Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2014, Oakville, Napa Valley (39388, $29.95, Arterra Wines Canada Inc.)

An annual parade of quality comes from Franciscan with this Napa Valley cabernet, a wine that is quietly commercial and respectfully true to its roots. It’s quite chalky and the tannic grain is truly in focus while the fruit speaks with premium ability, certainly sheathed by Americanized vanilla oak. Savoury to a point but still quite naked truthful about fruit in its ripe clothing. Always well made and at its best in 2014. Drink 2017-2021.  Last tasted October 2017

Even more reserve and also into reductive, with darkest fruit, Cassis, carob and graphite. So much chocolate, dark, bitter and high in cocoa. Coating tannin, present and demanding, a bit west. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted May 2017

Huh. A day after tasting these #tokalon wines #tokalon2017

Nickel & Nickel John C Sullenger Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, Oakville, Napa Valley ($179.99, Noble Estates Wines & Spirits Inc.)

Dark cherry and Cassis oscillate in waves, punishing the shores of first prefacing perfume and then recursing acidity. A distinct profile that speaks so similarly to a Mondavi To Kalon but in Oakville…it’s hard to know, distinguish and be certain but so tempting to hedge guessing bets on origins. Such fineness, dramatic acidity and persistence, so not surprising it’s just across the road (Hwy 29). A very special tract of terroir in its own right this John C. Sullenger Vineyard. Drink 2020-2028.  Tasted May 2017

Robert Mondavi Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, Napa Valley (29207, $59.95, Arterra Wines Canada Inc.)

Oakville’s rich Cassis and mocha swirl welcomes wood and baking spice, then floral meets herbaceous Freesia. As a Mondavi cabernet, Oakville sits high up on the sapid meets tart scale and is expressly long. The palate really suggests older world Bordeaux but it’s almost too ripe, chalky, chocolate ganache rich, especially at the finish. A touch of Brett brings me back to structure and old world but there is an equal and opposing fruit-tannin seamlessness and smoothness. Its fineness of acidity means that it ends up balanced. Markedly correct, intense and proprietary for 2013. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted May 2017 and February 2018

Flight #5

To Kalon

Narrowing it down to the vineyard, De Vere is insistent on what matters. “Elements of style and quality, not just, but a stylistic, a feel, difference, less broad in expression like Oakville or classic like the direct Napa Valley tier.” Rutherford’s alluvial fan vs. To Kalon’s alluvial fan complex vs the same, but different, from Oakville. The east side of the Oakville AVA receives more of the warm afternoon sun as compared to the sedimentary-gravelly alluvial loam on the west, with more volcanic but heavier soils on the east. There they are low to moderate fertility and fairly deep. All this adds up to more than 100 soil variations in Napa Valley, one half of what exists on earth. To Kalon receives shade a full hour earlier than the east side of the valley. It’s reserve fruit is more likely to be found where the large pebble, gravelly, well draining soils are found, further west, abutted up against the mountain range.

As an aside, talk about Napa Valley wines often leads to the fruit-jam complex. “Fruit bombs (you will know),” says De Vere, “are not just a factor of sun, ripeness, and brix. They are a result of less tannin and acidity, from vines stressed after veraison to develop ripeness but without the balancing factors. To kalon’s soils develop acidity earlier and maintain it. Acid-tannin-pyrazine, that’s the order of development.

Cliff Lede Cabernet Sauvignon Beckstoffer To Kalon Vineyard 2014, Oakville, Napa Valley ($250.00 estimate, Halpern Enterprises)

Presented by Eduardo Dingler, Napa Sommelier. High toned, deep, deep dark fruit, gets right up the olfactory. Young, chalky, tart and with the dark fruit sitting serious and looming, like a cross-legged Buddha on the ledge of a 10-foot To Kalon wall. Sees 62 per cent new French oak after six to eight weeks cold soak pre-fermentation. In an environment without alcohol you get this layered juiciness and tart aromatics without astringency. That’s the crux and the key. Balance, density, true to the To Kalon spirit. Drink 2018-2026.  Tasted May 2017

Alpha Omega Beckstoffer To Kalon Vineyard 2013, Oakville, Napa Valley ($188.00 estimate)

Presented by Alpha Omega’s founding winemaker Jean Hoefliger. “Napa has a consistency of climate that is unmatched, anywhere.” On Andy Beckstoffer, “Andy was very receptive to my very expensive lap dances,” and about the vineyard, “in an era of globalization, To Kalon’s DNA is the most important in Napa Valley. The site in Napa easiest to find in a blind tasting because of acidity and tannin, backbone and skeleton.” Hoefliger’s ’13 cabernet sauvignon is a construct of granularly dense tannic structure and non-readjusted acidity. Darkness ascends or descends as the glass goes, brooding, seemingly from deeper clay soils within the alluvial variegation, a wine in which the tannins have been joined, linked, layered, polymerized. Having used a long maceration makes this dense, intense and ageable. To be exact, 45 days on skin, then in the end unfined and unfiltered. Wow does this remind me of modern Piedmontese nebbiolo but with so much more intense red fruit, notes of incense, wild fennel, cinnamon and candy hearts. Just tremendous structure. Drink 2020-2034.  Tasted May 2017

Provenance Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Beckstoffer To Kalon Vineyard 2013, Oakville, Napa Valley ($220.00 estimate)

Bright but at the same time with a hint of dried fruit so good balance between the two, meaning the acidity is in control. John Hazak: “What To Kalon has that separates itself from our iconic Hewitt Vineyard is age ability and a dense core that opens up with age. It sets it apart from our top Rutherford sites.” A chewy To Kalon by tempered ganache, a child reared on plenty of barrel fermentations to capture individual parcels of beautiful fruit. Carries a cool minty savour at the finish and lingers across the top of the gums above the teeth, leaving that anaesthetizing feeling. Brilliant in that respect, not quite ready though will come into its own not too far from now. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted May 2017

Cornerstone Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Oakville Station 2013, Oakville, Napa Valley ($150.00 estimate)

Certainly more dusty notes, garrigue, savour and a hint of black olive, but all red fruit. From Oakville Station (labeled as such, from the UC Davis grown plots of vines). “The best way to understand To Kalon on the surface is to take a bike ride,” says Charles Thomas. “to understand why a gradation across a kilometre is so crucial. There is ample tannin in To Kalon but also a fineness of tannin. It is forgiving of many aspects of viticulture and especially winemaking. You always see the vineyard.” A transitional wine, ripeness but not super so, perfumed and the subtleties of the vineyard. Cherry blossom big time. An island surrounded by Mondavi on all sides, more fertility here in this block, a soft, delicious chocolate finish. A transitional era styled wine. Aromatic and not with the same density (with 10 merlot and 5 cabernet franc)but beautiful all the same. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted May 2017

Robert Mondavi Winery Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, To Kalon Vineyard, Oakville, Napa Valley (670463, $149.00, Arterra Wines Canada Inc.)

Mondavi’s 2013 Reserve from the iconic To Kalon Vineyard plays a different role when nosed side by five each with other similar terroir cabernets, in this case by Cliff Lede, Alpha Omega, Provenance and Cornerstone. The Mondavi would show as a muscular cabernet in a solo tasting irrespective of the flight but with relative reference points the Mediterranean savour stands apart, especially in this high-toned aromatic vintage. The wine is embossed and eschews syrup for chew and density, the chalky tannins already beginning to show some development and integration. After going through the basket press, the haute cultured barrels bring out this insieme-collective of sophisticated To Kalon sweet acidity and tannin, leaving extracted bitterness behind. This works in elevating the texture of silk and softness, insisting upon and stamping a guarantee of longevity. The excellence is rounded out with some fragrance from petit verdot and further finessed, grainy tannin by cabernet franc. Drink 2019-2028.  Tasted May 2017

Robert Mondavi Winery Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2014, To Kalon Vineyard, Oakville, Napa Valley (670463, $300.00, Arterra Wines Canada Inc.)

Tasted during a To Kalon Vineyard retrospective in Napa. Though sinfully young the 2014 seems bright and focused, accessible, closer to ready than the 2013. The secret, special, double secret bottle, only 150 cases made, not really available for trade, pure To Kalon. Refined, here and only here as 100 per cent cabernet sauvignon, spice but melted and oozing into that liqueur, there is a seamlessly woven fabric of vineyard that just seems soft, supple and elastic. Drink 2018-2028. Tasted May 2017

And a few more Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon tasted that May

Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2010, Napa Valley

The 2010 Reserve is a sensory wine in the most attention grabbing way, as experiential and inspirational as can be when such an inhalant gets hold of the senses. Deepest dark fruit of impossibly zero evolution and everything in line with the classic Mondavi-To Kalon relationship. Blackberry, Cassis, black olive and silkened in texture as the Reserve can ever be. Pure weave, ethereal liquidity, fresh, finessed, focused and exacting. Tough on a winemaker? That’s why this is so good. A grand cru Oakville classic, great wine from a challenging vintage. Drink 2017-2029.  Tasted May 2017

Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2006, Napa Valley

Actually some development here, straight into secondary time framing from which balsam and spice are front and centre. The masala comes from cassia stick, bokser pod and liquifies in plum liqueur. Lots of chocolate ganache and in some ways the least indicative Mondavi Reserve vintage for a To Kalon cabernet sauvignon. Acidity is quiet and perhaps this is just a moment in time. Maybe in a year or two the acids will step out of the shadows and rear up once again but I wouldn’t wait nor hold my breath. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted May 2017

Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2005, Napa Valley

Tasted in an auspicious group that included a Gros Clos Vougeot ’13, Grange ’11, Haut-Brion ’11 and Sassicaia ’11, all led by Mark de Vere MW and culminating at this Mondavi Napa Valley Reserve ’05. Or as what De Vere quips, “just another night in Napa Valley.” A cool vintage now showing some secondary notes though still presenting balsam, tempered chocolate ganache, pencil lead and graphite. Floral vintage of ethereal whispers and the trilogy promise of the EPF. Elegance, power and finesse. Dark To Kalon fruit and mouth-watering acidity with a vanishing point of mystery still on the horizon, like walking with someone we don’t fully know but feel comfortable in their presence. Still elicits more questions than answers so for a vintage like 2005, 12 years seems to be peak performance. The tannic finish supports Cassis, dried herbs and a briny Mediterranean black olive bite. Tannin begets fine bitters. “Using oak is the virtuoso way to express To Kalon fruit,” says Geneviève Janssens, “after fermentation, to preserve the personality of To Kalon.” Drink 2017-2024.  Tasted May 2017

Robert Mondavi Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon To Kalon Vineyard 1999, Napa Valley

This from a time when Mondavi labeled the reserve cabernet sauvignon as “To Kalon Vineyard,” a moniker of essential meaning that would return 14 years later on the 2013 bottle. If this were what Mark de Vere referred to as “a confusing moment in history” I could not say but “this strange bottling” provided an unequivocal and seminal turning point in this wine’s storied past, present and future. It was in fact a small, special cuvée, a little bit different than the ’99 Reserve. “The coolest vintage on record, until it wasn’t,” because of a warm period at the end of summer and early fall that ushered forth a certain, singular sort of ripeness. Regardless of memories, characterizations and twists of fate, this single-vineyard cabernet is as finessed, focused and precise as any Mondavi Reserve. It persists chalky, fine and gritty in tannin running amok, dragging the acidity forward and around. The workout is something to behold, a dispatch of late Napa fashion and never more successful than right here. The dépêche mode of To Kalon is by now famous but culminated with this ’99 for everything to follow, with consistency and a guarantee of modern quality. Listen to it croon “try walking in my shoes.” Many have and many continue to pay homage to this Napa Valley originator and pioneer. It’s a cabernet sauvignon of faith and devotion. Drink 2017-2029.  Tasted May 2017

Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 1988, Napa Valley

A vintage of reducing and concentrating liqueur, high-toned, distillate, California IGT. A bottling style of the time and the vintage must have procured such fruit meets tannic intensity that it has taken a long time to relent. Higher in acidity than savour, pulsating, energetic. Still a bit frenetic in its wildly animated state of perpetual suspension. A bit Bretty but 1988 carries such an old world sentimentality and the many ties that bind. Despite the great and gritty acidity it remains a balanced cabernet sauvignon, earthy and old school but I’d wager it will continue to drink this way for seven to 10 more years. Drink 2017-2024.  Tasted May 2017

Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 1976, Napa Valley

“What order to do pour a vertical tasting,” asks Mark de Vere MW. “When you have 1988, 1999 and 2000 in the mix? You have to think about how the wines were made, how the grapes were grown, without sophisticated equipment, with vineyard managers and winemakers who didn’t know then what they know now.” But, this house named Mondavi has seemingly always known, respected and responded collectively over these things. The terroir – To Kalon. Since tasting 1975 one year ago I can say this: 1976 is remarkably alive, sound and vital. From a very dry year. Ten days of “prolonged” skin-contact. Dill present along with preserved plum, of course mushroom, truffle and what separates this from ’75 is acidity, equal to over even performing above that of 1980. Spice! Tart and still intense. Amazing. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted May 2017

Robert Mondavi Winery Oakville BDX Red Wine 2015, Oakville, Napa Valley (SAQ, $75.75)

As always the high quality To Kalon fruit as a base source puts the odd in high favour but the idea here is to use parcels that produce lushness and lower tannin so that the wine gifts quite a bit more instant gratification. Mostly cabernet sauvignon with cabernet franc and originally only sold on premise. Extension through barrel is 24 months in mixed (55/45) Allier French for a liquid chalky result, preserved top notch acidity and a sharpness that demands protein attention. Can’t miss the graphite/pencil lead and in this specific case, tongue tripping vowels which talk the talk of this specific red blend. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted May 2017

Robert Mondavi Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon 2009, Oakville District, Napa Valley

When tasted side by side the genetic lineage and connection to 1999 at ten years apart is uncanny and so it is To Kalon that ties the two, threads the similarity and is the reason. Black olive as always, dusty garrigue and this medi-pedi (Mediterranean pedigree) that unites all cabernet sauvignon from Oakville sites. Same wisdom and freedom, same feeling felt. Drink 2017-2025.  Tasted May 2017

Robert Mondavi Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon 1999, Oakville District, Napa Valley

Has aged with To Kalon grace and while texture is seemingly everything, still you are reminded to engage with the fully seasoned, exigent exhale from the spice box. Aromatically present in balsam and fig, the vineyard’s black olive and then acidity off the proverbial charts. We see how To Kalon mellows in Oakville form, integrates and acts out the marshmallow of time. Hinting now at the tertiary which comes quicker in this range and that is perfectly, allegedly understandably fine. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted May 2017

Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon Stags Leap District 2013, Napa Valley

As with the sauvignon blanc the fruit source is Schweitzer Vineyard, here for the cabernet from three blocks all leading to a bigger, fleshier style. Treated similarly to the Oakville cabernet, long maceration in oak fermenters and 24 months barrel time, six more than the Oakville Reserve because these tannins need further taming. Deep red fruit in tones of strawberry, raspberry and plum with moments that are not unlike European reds in hot climate/seasons. Turns to spicy white toffee, vanilla and before too long the screeching breaks down the scree of tannin. Wait five years. Trust that idea. Drink 2021-2029.  Tasted May 2017

A few basic bottles were on hand to greet us @RobertMondavi before the finest wines and cake were offered.

And the opening wines in Mondavi’s cellars

Château Haut Brion Premier Grand Cru Classé 2011, Ac Pessac Léognan (263251, $1,599.85)

A cabernet sauvignon dominant Pessac Léognan off of gravel soils in contrast to some other First Growths Haut Brion is keenly about Château, of reputation, history and acumen. A Bordeaux to cause revelry and from 2011 fresh like you could never expect or imagine. Lithe and mineral, dusty stone and focused. Of continental temper and elegance, black olive and quality chocolate, toasty espresso and late arriving spice. Taste, gather, repeat. Will surely develop next level time-honoured notes of forest floor, mushroom and delicately rendered baking spice. In 20 years and further long-lived expectations. My kind of longevity though the fineness says it will ready itself quite soon. Drink 2019-2035.  Tasted May 2017

Domaine Gros Frère Et Soeur Clos De Vougeot Grand Cru “Musigni” 2013, AOC Bourgogne ($300.00)

From the top of the slope at Musigny in a distinct and compelling Clos de Vougeot of intensity and finesse. Deep rooted earth and black cherry fruit, so much fragrance and delicate. A just sharpened pencil, a brush with fennel and lavender, a gaze through a looking glass. At its most calm, a palate silky and accented by a complex mix of spice. A wine to ask “what makes a great wine.” So much more than the length and the finish, always circling back to the start and about the quality of the bitters in their refinement. Where in the process does this occur? When is the magic performed? All the way through and as a by-product of the paradigm of site. Drink 2019-2035.  Tasted May 2017

Sassicaia 2011, Doc Bolgheri, Tuscany, Italy (480533, $229.95)

Showing maximum warmth and spirit, high savour by liquorice, mint, fennel and so much spice. Marchese Niccolò Incisa della Rocchetta fixing Bolgheri just as his father did while Robert Mondavi was doing so in Oakville at To Kalon. Revolutions is different places and for Sassicaia, a clear varietal vernacular. Apposite Bordeaux like power and a supple wrist in using extra hands with cabernet franc. Still those chalky tannins. Drink 2020-2029.  Last tasted May 2017

Certainly a Sassicaia borne of the earth and the vintage. Cooler, with increased sapidity and elevated aromatics. While not volatile there is certainly an intimation at acetic behaviour. Though supportive in only 15 per cent of the two Cabs blend, cabernet franc stands firm in its concentration of tobacco, peppercorns a-popping in the pan and a smouldering of currants over an open fire. This will age for decades and return to its beautiful natural state with time-weathered, rugged facial lines. A leathery Sassicaia this, with tight, drying tannins and in need of two decades to show off its birthright. The 2011 Sassicaia is a loyal, aristocratic example to the Marchese Mario Incisa della Rocchetta’s dream of creating a ‘thoroughbred’ wine where the ideal was Bordeaux.  Tasted November 2014

Good to go!

godello

Give a view an arch and he’ll ask you to stay for dinner #tokalon2017

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WineAlign

California Update: Napa Valley

Speed date afternoon with some of @napavintners finest

We have all been thinking about California lately. As of September 15th a staggering 7,718 wildfires have burned 3,154,107 acres, damaged or destroyed 5,412 structures and killed 20 people. Devastating numbers and when you begin to read headlines like “Maps: Fires and Air Quality in California, Oregon and Washington,” “California wildfires leave behind trail of devastation and death” and “Smoke from the U.S. wildfires has reached six Canadian provinces,” well then you begin to worry about so many more people and places. Be thankful there is wine.

If intoxicating then well, wine is also nourishing, may even heal the ulcers through which we in the world are bleeding and the acreage where those on the west coast are burning. That is why yesterday’s communication from Napa Valley Vintners struck a chord. The press release began this way. “Wine has the power to bring people of all different backgrounds together. The vintners in Napa Valley believe our community and industry should be open and welcoming to people of colour, whether working in the industry, visiting Napa Valley or enjoying our wines anywhere. With that in mind, today we pledge over $1,000,000 in scholarship and mentorship programs to increase diversity, inclusivity and opportunity in all aspects of the wine industry.” Amazing. The world is burning all around and Napa Valley keeps working towards what’s better, planning for what’s essential and announcing the following:

We are proud to team up with the following organizations to achieve this goal:

  • Bâtonnage: Educating on the challenges and opportunities women and minorities face in the wine industry
  • UNCF (United Negro College Fund): Giving all Americans equal access to a college education
  • Wine Unify: Amplifying the diverse voices of wine professionals

This new support builds on NVV’s longtime commitment to youth mentorship programs in Napa County through Auction Napa Valley proceeds. This year alone, nearly $2 million was invested in nine local non-profits whose mission is to close the achievement gap and help at-risk youth succeed. We have asked our members and trade partners to join us in this effort. While there is still much work ahead, we look forward to welcoming an increasingly diverse chorus of voices to our valley and our industry. Learn more about the NVV efforts.

Invest $1 million in new scholarships

NVV will partner with UNCF to create a new scholarship program for people of color to pursue college degrees in subjects ranging from grape growing, winemaking, marketing, business and more. Each year over the next five years, NVV will invest $200,000 in scholarships and will encourage its members to bolster the scholarship program with donations to help even more students and to ensure the effort extends beyond five years. UNCF has been managing scholarships for minority students for 75+ years and is the largest and most successful minority organization of its kind.

Invest more than $100,000 in two new mentorship programs

  • Bâtonnage fosters solutions for a more positive, inclusive path forward for women and ethnic and racial minorities to achieve equal representation, equal opportunities and equal leadership positions within our industry. Over the next three years, NVV will help fund a mentorship program aimed at providing resources, guidance, recommendations, internships and training programs.
  • Wine Unify was founded by Napa locals Martin Reyes MW, DLynn Proctor, and Mary Margaret McCamic MW. Their mission is to welcome, elevate, and amplify the voices of underrepresented minorities through mentorship and education. NVV has committed to work with Wine Unify over the next three years to help fund their ongoing programs.

Which brings me back to an event in Toronto one year ago, hosted by Napa Valley Vintners and their Canadian partner Paula Oreskovich at Energy Plus Communications. Napa Valley “Celebration of Excellence” Speed Tasting and Trade Tasting was held on November 7th at the Royal Ontario Museum. More than 25 vintners from the Napa Valley were on hand. Trade were afforded three minutes with each producer/vintner to hear their story, taste their two wines per station and ask questions before moving on to the next vintner. It was a thrilling experience as a dating journey to Napa Valley from grape to glass. Wines from Napa, Spring Mountain, Oak Knoll, Oakville, Stags Leap, St. Helena, Yountville, Rutherford, Calistoga and other appellations were poured. Most impressive were the many varied back vintages shared by these producers and their Ontario agents. 

Donate here to California Wildlife Fire Funds and also here

So the question begs, why am I sharing my tasting notes with you now, almost one year later. First and foremost to remind us all that California needs to be front and centre in our minds and hearts. Second, many of these singular wines are still available in very limited quantities through VINTAGES. Third, because I feel like it. Here are my notes on 24 wines tasted.

Artesa Vineyards And Winery Estate Pinot Noir 2016, Carneros (12519, $60.00, Andrew Peller Import Agency)

From the Napa Valley side of Carneros but also with fruit grown up as far as the foothills of Mount Veeder. Very pure and clear pinot, red fruit juicy, candied in a terrifically stylish and delicious way. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted November 2019

Blackbird Vineyards Arise 2016, Napa Valley ($79.00, Paradigm Fine Fine Agency)

From winemaker Aaron Pott, mainly Oak Knoll fruit off of 20-plus lots sourced in Napa Valley off mountain tops, from hillsides, on bench lands and off of valley floor vineyards. Nearly two years in half new, half seasoned French barrels. A blend of merlot (55 per cent), cabernet franc (25) and cabernet sauvignon 17) with a splash of petit verdot in a mere mortal’s affordable flagship red. Surely a nod to Pomerol with a wink at Napa Valley. Tart, intense tang and really good acidity but also woody and yes the name is Beatles related. “All your life, you were only waiting for this moment to arise.” Drink 2021-2025.  Tasted November 2019

Black Stallion Estate Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Transcendent 2015, Napa Valley (439968, $200.00, Select Wine Merchants)

From the Oak Knoll District of Napa Valley and surely Black Stallion’s head of the stable, signature triple-crown wine. A top tier cabernet sauvignon made from the best grapes grown on mountain sites above the fog line. Not just one hilltop vineyard with a view but several; Veeder, Spring, Diamond and Howell, with two per cent Oakville tossed in for good grounding and balancing measure. A four-part essential, Mountain Napa a cappella performance that simply demonstrates, in complex music written for four voices, what a layered wine cane be and in doing so, expresses wow factor times four. Drink 2022-2028.  Tasted November 2019

Cain Vineyard And Winery Cain Five 2013, Napa Valley (727925, $199.95, Rogers and Company)

Bordeaux idea with fruit from Spring Mountain, five pronged and truth be told only Cain Five smells this. Earth and soil, elevation and intensity. Botanicals, tar, hillside tea, brush and weeds, natural yeasts and so bloody savoury. Sensorial experience in the fifth degree. Persistently doles out palate amercements with seamless consistency and the pain is all pleasure, each lashing accepted submissively like the one before. Drink 2020-2028.  Tasted November 2019

Clos Du Val Cabernet Sauvignon Estate 2015, Napa Valley (12544, $100.00, The Vine Agency)

Fruit sources are both Stags Leap District and Yountville AVAs with smaller portion support by petit verdot, merlot and cabernet franc. It’s predominately SLD with one quarter coming from Yountville in a most classically dark-berried and unctuous Napa Valley style. The aridity of the vintage and at this point the age have conspired to accentuate the concentration and the spice. Correct to the nth degree. Drink 2019-20212.  Tasted November 2019

Clos Pegase Cabernet Sauvignon Hommage 2014, Napa Valley (739219, $156.00, Azureau Wines and Spirits)

A reserve cabernet sauvignon at 77 per cent with petit verdot in Calistoga. Bloody unctuous, deliciously lush and luxe cabernet. Though set into a price range with parameters of equivocation, for those who seek the tête de cuvée of a professional Napa Valley estate’s cabernet range with a true microcosmic sense of place, this Hommage signature from Clos Pegase will rise to that fore. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted November 2019

Darioush Napa Signature Cabernet Sauvignon 2016, Napa Valley ($150.00, Breakthru Beverage Canada Inc.)

The signature cabernet sauvignon from southern valley sites where cooler winds can prevail and off of estate vineyards in the Mount Veeder and Napa Valley AVA’s. This ’16 is possessive of it all with twang acidity tang surrounding the rich chalky liquidity of the southern valleys’ cabernet beauty. Highly composed wine, in total clarity, control and surprisingly fresh alacrity. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted November 2019

Eleven Eleven Wines Cabernet Sauvignon Laki’s Vineyard 2016, Napa Valley

From winemaker Kirk Venge who practices the art of fashioning varietal wines “for more glasses”, and making a wish for all of us to stop everything you’re doing, to take stand and notice that “this is what we’ve made.” Not so much a contemplation, rumination or meditation as a recognition and an appreciation. In this case a 100 per cent estate Oak Knoll cabernet aged in 80 per cent new French Oak for silky smooth texture and dry as the desert styling. Quite finessed and harnessed for exemplary balance. Ready to rock. Drink 2  020-2024.  Tasted November 2019

Emmolo Sauvignon Blanc 2015, Napa Valley (96016, $25.00, Andrew Peller Import Agency)

Hand-brushed vineyards, which is winemaker Jenny Wagner’s way of crop thinning. Good acidity lean and sharp, really impressive and in a vein quantifiable as the most appreciable of all the Caymus stylings. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted November 2019

Gallica Wines Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, St. Helena (12521, $269.00, Lifford Wines and Spirits)

From the family property in St. Helena and cabernet sauvignon planted in 1990 on deep and low fertility Cortina soils. Mixes in one-quarter cabernet franc from Rosemary Cakebread’s vineyards in the Oakville range, 130m above the Silverado Trail. All organic, with the franc brining in components of florals and posit tugs of savour, sapidity and physicality. Not that the sauvignon needed any help because that fruit is rich, wise and complex as a stand alone but the franc surely elevates the entire collective into rareified air. Tasted with Gallica’s Sales Director Alex French. Drink 2021-2031.  Tasted November 2019

Groth Cabernet Sauvignon 2015, Oakville (606517, $120.00, The Vine Agency)

Suzanne Groth’s 2015 is the first vintage with new Director of Winegrowing Cameron Parry, hired in 2014 as only the third winemaker in Groth’s history since the family’s first vintage in 1982. The estate cabernet’s fruit comes from right in Oak Knoll and may just be the dictionary entry for parochial red fruit with its distinct savoury edginess. That said you feel or at least intuit the 14 per cent inclusion of merlot what with a subtle doubling down of brushy autumnal dried fruit and verdant notes. Overall tart and beautiful, an honest and true expression of Groth and Oak Knoll. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted November 2019

Hall Cabernet Sauvignon 2016, Napa Valley (273391, $99.00, Noble Estates)

Hall is based in St. Helena and in a Napa Valley tasting of 24 diverse options of great and elevated quality it is unequivocally the most forward and naturally understood wine in the room. If perhaps it presents as simple on the outside it is confidently complex on the inside. In this regard you can imagine the sentiment provided by 50 per cent new oak but you feel it bigger, better and more so on the palate. Provides the context for texture, of a seamless blending in chocolate and chalk. Drink 2021-2027.  Tasted November 2019

Hoopes Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2014, Oakville (534800, $113.00, Wilson Group Wines & Spirits)

From the 1983 planted 10 acre estate vineyard in Oakville, very much considered the flagship wine. Only To Kalon shares a volcanic element affinity with the quarter portion at Hoopes, an important if not profound geological inclusion in the Oakville sub-appellation. Lindsay Hoopes is justifiably high on this 2014 from Spencer Hoopes and fruit found at the base of Yountville Hill. In addition to being basaltic it’s also the most geologically diverse on the valley floor; contains sand and clay in packed density and as determined by the legend David Howell, ’tis is magical place, here confirmed in what is truly a cabernet of magic. Now having arrived in its window, have a go and then repeat for the next 10 years. Drink 2019-2029.  Tasted November 2019

Keenan Merlot 2015, Napa Valley ($50.00, Profile Wine Group)

Plum dusty, chalky and verdant. Showing some dried fruit. Spring Mountain portion is quantifiably structured, though also agreeable in ageable fruit. Thirty five is Carneros fruit so a merge of two cool climates. Quite charming in the end. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted November 2019

Long Meadow Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon 2014, Napa Valley ($84.95, Breakthru Beverage Canada Inc.)

Ashley Heisey’s 2014 is more than just a child of a most arid vintage in Napa Valley’s recent history, it was also early and with no frost during bud break, the strong, early fruit set in the vineyard organized the season on a collision course with all things warmth. High temperatures and no rain meant an early August harvest of cabernet fruit already deep into black cherry and blackberry. By 2019 this LMR signature red is speaking in Mayacamas Mountains tones, resonant, baritone and profound. The drying of fruit, spices and tannins are combining at a vanishing point from which perspective optimizes in the here and now. Drink this in perfect window opportunity over the next two years. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted November 2019

Luna Vineyards Sangiovese 2016, Napa Valley (La Céleste Levure)

From two elevations, floor and foothills, mainly planted in 1999. Game Farm Vineyard on the Silverado Trail below Rector Creek Dam is the most important source, of shallow, rocky soils that stress the deprivation out of need to struggle sangiovese. The cooler Napa Valley sites bring the savour and ulterior form of tension to the mix. Elévage is warm fermentation, malolactic encouraged, 30 per cent new French and Hungarian oak barrels for 20 months. The result is in a Chianti Classico Riserva vein, fruit highly concentrated with some dried desiccated notes and no shortage of local savour. That’s really what separates it into a Napa Valley thing, far away from the Tuscan homeland. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted November 2019

Pine Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon Stags Leap District 2010, Napa Valley ($140.00, Andrew Peller Import Agency)

Fabulous retrospective look back at a wine produced by the then 32 year-old winery from a selection of grapes from all four estate vineyards located in the home lands of the winery. A highly specific gander into Napa Valley’s smallest AVA, very influenced by marine essence for a guarantee of freshness that persists even today. Rich but compressed and dried herb sumptuous. Beautiful wine, so textured and having been purposed for structure now resides in a realm dominated by sweet spice. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted November 2019

Revana Family Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2009, St. Helena (12528, $265.00, Le Sommelier Inc.)

Revana Family Vineyards is owned by Dr. Madaiah Revana who currently is a practicing Cardiologist in Houston, Texas. Thomas Rivers Brown is now employed as winemaker and Jim Barbour as Vineyard Manager. Taken from eight acres, planted in 1998 with the first vintage being 2001, originally in the hands of Heidi Barrett and this was her last vintage. A geological site in St. Helena of alluvial flow off of the Mayacamas range. Intense black olive and very Mediterranean in complex scenting with great acidity. All in Cassis fills the flavour profile. Ten year-old cabernet sauvignon still going strong. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted November 2019

Rocca Family Vineyards Vespera 2016, Napa Valley ($84.00, Brand New Day Wines & Spirits)

“Vespera,” as in late-evening, gathering time. Estate grown and organically farmed red blend from Collinetta Vineyard in Coombsville and Grigsby Vineyard in Yountville. Varietal composition is 57 per cent cabernet sauvignon, (37) syrah and (6) merlot, aged 17 months in small French oak barrels, 65 per cent new. Floral and beautiful, silky, silken, lush and so elongated. Spiced and juicy peppery, warm to humid with generous alcohol though very fluid and forward. Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted November 2019

Signorello Cabernet Sauvignon 2015, Napa Valley (60152, $124.95, Profile Wine Group) 

A massively structured and concentrated wine with teeming and oozing fruit, heavy barrel accord in which texture and tannin weave a future likely to unwind over two decades time. Classic Signorello spice and red citrus. Very limited quantities (by mailing list only) and out of the hands of a new winemaking team. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted November 2019

Silenus Cabernet Sauvignon Tyros 2015, Napa Valley (16409, $49.95, Carpe Vinum International)

From Oak Knoll and fruit that used to be sold to Mondavi, very modern and with 22 per cent merlot. Verdant liqueur tones and real glycerin. Herbal and slick with a thinning in elasticity. “Mini” debauching here. As for the name, Tyros means apprentice, in reference to Silenus being mentor to charge or beginner Dionysus. Also an old Greek naval town in Arcadia, Peloponnese. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted November 2019

Taub Family Beckstoffer Vineyard Georges Iii Cabernet Sauvignon 2016, Napa Valley (12538, $225.00) 

From proprietor Marc Taub who’s family is part of the Napa Valley wine fabric since prohibition and who in 2013 acquired Napa Valley producer Heritance, later evolving into Taub Family Vineyards. His winemaker is Tom Hinde, a Sonoma and Napa specialist who cut his teeth for seven years at Flowers, but also at Kendall-Jackson, Hartford, La Crema, Lakoya, Cardinale, Stonestreet and Verite. Add in a mere three acres within the historic 300-acre Beckstoffer Vineyard first purchased by Beaulieu founder Georges de Latour in 1928, called Beaulieu Vineyard Number 3 and made by winemaker Andre Tchelistcheff. The overall pedigree is at the top of the unparalleled game and so huge fruit expected, hedonistic result gained. So much fruit, spicy and massive structure with the future holding so much truffle and charcoal, figs so very Rutherford and could only be from the place. Massive chew of cabernet sauvignon fruit and also very seasoned into the Ribena. All that said there is something hidden, something potentially profound about the Chiaroscuro magic concealed within. Wouldn’t be in a such a hurry to find out what lurks inside this rare Napa Valley wine. Drink 2023-2033.  Tasted November 2019

Trefethen Family Vineyards Merlot The Cowgirl And The Pilot 2016, Napa Valley ($125.00, Vinexx)

A tribute to Janet & John Trefethen, Cowgirl and Pilot respectively, from a vineyard planted in 2003. Merlot grows best on the clay-loam-silty soil valley floor and the site confirmed the potential from the very first vintage, so says Jon Ruel, CEO and viticulturalist. This truly is Napa merlot, from thinned clusters, trimmed of tips and shoulders like pinot, evenly ripened and it shows. Seamless merlot to be sure with a beautifully spicy finish. Drink 2020-2026.  Tasted November 2019

Trinchero Cabernet Sauvignon BRV 2013, Napa Valley (514224, $120.00, Philippe Dandurand Wines Ltd.)

Part of the third generation Heritage Collection line in the hands of Bob Torres nearly 70 years into the family’s work at Trinchero. Off of soils ranging from gravelly to loamy to alluvial, the BRV comes from the Atlas Peak AVA and my is it big and brawny. So much black olive, brood and badass attitude, inclusive of a 10 percent mix of malbec and petit verdot. They add structure in a wine of crazy high pH (3.95). Just wow. Still a bambino. Drink 20121-2031.  Tasted November 2019

Good to go!

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Speed date afternoon with some of @napavintners finest

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Roero DOCG Previews and Retrospectives: 2017, Riserva 2016, 2007 and Riserva 2006

Across the Tanaro River to Roero

Nebbiolo, arbiter of Piedmontese taste, far from existing in a vacuum or holed up in a one horse town. Nebbiolo’s web casts complex, wide, untethered, unconfined and spread out across a connected set of earthly Albeisa vineyard constellations. The varietal lands umbrellaed and managed in trust to a multi-tasking Consorzio belong to a greater set of regions occupied by Barolo, Barbaresco, Alba, Dogliani and Roero. To follow Piemonte’s nebbiolo simply map out the wine route “di Langa e Roero,” to trace out hundreds of cru sites in dozens of communes within a territory that includes hot spots defined as Barolo DOCG, Barbaresco DOCG, Nebbiolo d’Alba DOC, Langhe Nebbiolo DOC and Roero DOCG. For the latter orient one’s self at the village of Canale and radiate outwards to take in the world that encapsulates nebbiolo grown in zones to produce a unique set of wines. The nebbiolo from vineyards in Roero are special and they are beholden to their makers.

Related – Barolo DOCG previews and retrospectives: 2016, Riserva 2014, 2006 and Riserva 2004

Albeisa President Marina Marcarino introduces Roero Consorzio President Francesco Monchiero

La Bottiglia Albeisa

All the nebbiolo rest in one bottle shape, the “Albeisa bottle” and rest assured all glass etched “Albeisa” contains nebbiolo grown only in these Langhe and Roero lands. It was Renato Ratti who first suggested the project seek this defining characteristic, way back in 1973. Shape, location, provenance, tradition and excellence. Bordeaux, Bourgogne, Albeisa. Recognizable for all these aforementioned reasons and a parochial prejudice in the collective attention to detail.

Roero is an area in Cuneo Province of Regione Piemonte and on the left bank of the Tanaro River, between the plain of Carmagnola and the low hills of Astigiano. Roero’s geographical parameters and topographical stretching northwards from Alba towards Torino are protected within an invisibly drawn membrane or fence enveloping a set of municipalities/villages/communes that mark its outskirts, from the southwest moving clockwise; Pocapaglia, Sommariva Perno, Baldissero d’Alba, Montaldo Roero, Monteu Roero, Santo Stefano Roero, Montà d’Alba, Canale, Priocca, Govone, Castellinaldo, Magliano Alfieri, Castagnito, Guarene, Vezza d’Alba, Piobesi d’Alba, Corneliano d’Alba, Monticello d’Alba and Santa Vittorio d’Alba. These 19 administrative entities then beget 175 recognized cru for raising Roero nebbiolo.

Related – Barbaresco DOCG previews and retrospectives: 2017, Riserva 2015, 2007 and 2005

Dressed to prune ~ Lessons in Alba with the maestro, Dottore Edoardo Monticelli ~ @albeisawines #nebbioloprima2020 #guyot #nebbiolo #barbera

What’s going on, under the ground?

From a geological point of view it is quite a young land, despite resting on a very ancient crystalline base. Up until 130 million years ago it was part of the bottom of an inland sea, called the Golfo Padano. Its terrain was formed by the sedimentation of debris of various lithological origins transported by marine currents that eroded the surrounding mountains, layering them through various stages of drying up and immersion. Roero remained a shallow gulf until the Pliocene, as shown by the sandy sediments and marine clays. The emergence and formation of the Roero hills took place two to three million years ago. This drift also brought various types of soil to the surface: the deeper layers shifted uphill, whereas those more recent remained at the bottom of the valley.

After the final surfacing the soil was covered once again by sediments of alluvial and wind origin. In that period Langhe and Roero formed a single plateau with the Tanaro and the Stura in the direction Bra – Carmagnola. The great friability of this marine-origin soil led to a progressive erosion. This shift occurred between 220.000 and 150.000 years ago along the path of the Tanaro in the direction Alba – Asti, separating Langhe and Roero. The erosion of the river had a significant effect on the sandy soil of Roero, creating the Rocche, craggy mountain peaks that mark the watershed between the old and new Tanaro valley. They cut the territory from south-west to north-east, from Pocapaglia to Montà, dividing the continental gravel and fluvial clay soils from those of marine origin, providing ideal vine-growing conditions.

The formation of Roero’s geological composition sheds light on why it evolved into an important territory for nebbiolo and in particular arneis but the Consorzio’s current President Francesco Monchiero reminds us that it is quite difficult in terms of menzioni geografica, at least with respect to labelling, much more so than the geographical mentions for Barolo and Barbaresco. This complicated and complex issue is attributed to the area’s many hills and tributaries, varied soils and geological compositions. The nebbiolo from Roero is so closely related to its sabbia, sandy soils that transfer and translate in the perfume, “as violet and a certain elegance.”

At the Roero Producers’ Consortium on March 4th, 2014 a decree was published in the Official Gazette “with the objective to perform the functions of protection, advancement, promotion, consumer information and general care of the interests related to the “Roero” DOCG.” In Alba on January 21st, 2020 Monchiero makes mention of 1797, the year to which the first inventories and notebooks of the Roero are found in the historic cellars of Roero di Vezza and Guareno, speaking of “Brente di Arneis, Vigna Costa in Castagnito and “Vermout made with Arneis”. Then into the 1800s traces of Arneis are found in the writings of Gallesio, who lists it among the most typical varieties of Roero and later the Rovasenda confirm its liaison with the city of Corneliano d’Alba. Finally, the 1879 bulletins indicate that 40 per cent of the Monteu Roero vineyards are dedicated to Arneis. Today there are more than 300 consortium members made up of producers and growers, and more than 1,000 hectares of Roero Denominazione (Designation) vineyards, with a total of about 6 million bottles produced, of which more than 60% are exported. Arneis and nebbiolo are the two base grapes of the DOCG: native grapes, typical of this territory, cultivated for centuries and interpreted with great care by the Roero producers.

Lucrezia Carrega Malabaila

The language of Roero

The dynamic and symbiotic relationship between a Roero winegrower to vine, winemaker to wine and nebbiolo as the conduit is actually a transference of information from one set of species to another. That is because the world, as per the words of authors we read and producers we cherish, is made of language. The links and associations are centuries old and through time it is the sampling of flavours, the charting of ripples and the passing of generational torches that ensures a ceaseless linking of knowledge. Case in point the house of Azienda Agricola Malabaila Di Canale.

The @malabaila.wines from Lucrezia Carrega Malabaila. Pas Dosé Metodo Classico seven years on lees, Roero Arneis, Favorita, Roero Nebbiolo, Barbera d”Alba and Birbét. 658 years in. Their time begins now.

Lucrezia Carrega Malabaila is at the helm of Canale’s most historic estate brought into modern eminence by her father before he passed away in 2010. Though Langhe Rosato, Pas Dosè Método Classico Vino Spumante, Mosta d’Uva Parzialmente Fermentato, Dessert Brachetto, Langhe Favorita, Roero Arneis, Barbera d’Alba, Barbera d’Alba Cru and Nebbiolo d’Alba are all purposefully and successfully produced, it is the nebbiolo from estate crus that tell a most profound Malabaila story. Then there is the Malabaila connection to Austrian Esterhazy royalty but that is for another story and another time. This old vines Castelletto brings Canale into prominent nebbiolo focus to ride along with the greats of Barbaresco.

Malabaila Di Canale 1362 Roero Riserva DOCG Castelletto 2015

From Canale vines 50 years old and the most historical vineyard for Malabaila, as documents show. Riserva here means two years in two, three and four year-old barrels. Yet another silky Roero and example of nebbiolo that could not have been born anywhere else. The “little castle” is a charming nebbiolo, fine of all its constructive parts with an ease of sensuality that just shows how confident, casual and natural life as it is just happens to be. Castelletto knows what it is. Drink 2020-2028.  Tasted January 2020

The chef, the plates and the art ~ @ventuno.1 in Alba

The Roero experience is one that requires so much further investigation so here’s to hoping and planning with great intention to make a return for that very purpose. In the meantime here are 38 reviews in total covering the January of 2020 Nebbiolo Prima tastings for Roero DOCG Previews and Retrospectives: 2017, Riserva 2016, 2007 and Riserva 2006.

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Roero DOCG 2017 and Riserva DOCG 2016

Roero DOCG Retrospective 2006 and 2007

Michael’s Nebbiolo Prima 2020

Roero DOCG 2017

The alcohol is felt and noted with syrupy fruit and a glycerin that comes straight off the aromatic top. Here a big Vezza d’Alba nebbiolo with some Bretty volatility and true blue natural feel. Structured with grippy tannins and all of the above combine to impress even while you wonder if some will find it a bit over the top. It may be found to be heavy but there is no doubting the acumen and the potential. Drink 2022-2029.  Tasted January 2020

Bric Castelvej Roero DOCG 2017

Slight volatility, thin and also some oxidative notes. Like cool climate pinot noir in Canale without much substance or structure. Drink 2020-2021.  Tasted January 2020

Demure, elegance, cherry and simplicity from Baldissero d’Alba. Light and feathery, quiet and pretty. A fine, slight chalky grain to the tannic structure. Really fine drinkability. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted January 2020

Cascina Val Del Prete Roero DOCG 2017

The twain is accessed in a Priocca Roero nebbiolo neither light nor heavy, neither bright nor mired in darkness. A medium-bodied, somewhere between easy and very ripe so balance is the answer. Soft, pliable and yet notable tannin supports very fine acidity and blood orange fruit. Drink 2021-2025.  Tasted January 2020

Cornarea Roero DOCG 2017

From go the feeling is bones, Canale karst intuition and structure. It is in here that nebbiolo takes on another level and layer of possibility. That said the fruit is caught between the posit poles of ripe and rustic. Very close to an exceptional wine. Just needs a bit earlier preserved acidity and passion. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted January 2020

La Libera

Deltetto 1953 Roero DOCG 2017

Quite near the top of the bright factor though some warmth and weight keep this on the right side of density and extraction. Tannins are bigger and grippier than expected so really, ostensibly steal the show. Let this settle though when it does the S. Stefano Roero fruit will be tighter and drying into further floral crispness. Drink 2022-2024.  Tasted January 2020

Enrico Serafino Roero DOCG 2017

The brightest nebbiolo from Canale Roero gives straight-shooting cherry aroma and flavour. Floral in a dried rose potpourri way with fine acidity and a liquid chalkiness though more from an almost neutral beeswax feel, rather than true blue tannin. Interesting wine that seems to come from limestone, even if it does not. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted January 2020

Light, bright, effusive and effulgent. Smells a bit like coffee and tobacco which is in great contrast to the transparency of hue and texture. Quite floral, intense and structured. This is serious nebbiolo from Montà and surely a harbinger for the commune in terms of its soils, abilities and wealthy forward thinking possibilities. Drink 2022-2029.  Tasted January 2020

Malabaila Di Canale Roero DOCG 2017

Bright and effusive Canale nebbiolo with cherry transparency and notable tannins. Hovering in between beats in terms of fruit pectin substance though the keel is balanced and proper. All the parts are there and in line if just a step shy of giving away a step up dance party impression. Drink 2021-2024.  Tasted January 2020

A vineyard monople and 100 per cent Canale nebbiolo with sand and minerals in the soil at the top of the hill. Makes for smooth and sweet tannins. Everything about this nebbiolo is just that. Silk threaded through cashmere and there is no mistaking the origin. This is not Barolo or Barbaresco. It’s purely Roero and at the haute heights of chic and beauty. And it has a minor volatile flaw in funk that adds character and complexity. After all we wouldn’t want it to be perfect. Drink 2020-2029.  Tasted January 2020

Mario Costa Roero DOCG 2017

Ripe and very developed fruit, a touch of figgy raisin character. Feel the sandy Canale soil and the development then takes over completely. Drink 2020.  Barrel Sample tasted January 2020

Marsaglia Roero DOCG 2017

Darker hued and ripe beyond so many, this is the nebbiolo from Roero to entice, induce and seduce with its inviting and substantial fleshiness. Also tannic with a late arriving bitter-sour edging that suggests a heavier pressing and bigger ambition. Chewy and filling with plenty of weight, almost to the precipice of warmth and distraction. From Castellinaldo. Drink 2021-2025.  Tasted January 2020

Some great initial interest on this Roero nebbiolo nose, distinctly violet floral mixed with a waft of fresh tobacco. You note the wood here, lightly vanilla, mildly spiced and a touch of sandalwood coming in late. Right proper structure and Canale possibilities intact. Drink 2021-2025.  Tasted January 2020

Rabino F.Lli Di Rabino Andrea Roero DOCG 2017

A nearly searing S. Vittoria d’Alba nebbiolo with a dried fruit quality and quite demanding tannins. Notably woody and the seeds of tannic thrush take over to render the fruit almost sterile and unavailable. Hard to see it returning, like overtly demanding Gattinara. Drink 2022-2024.  Tasted January 2020

Osteria dei Sognatori

Roero Riserva DOCG 2016

Bric Castelvej Roero Riserva DOCG Selezione Panera Alta 2016

A higher toned and also ripe 2016 Canale Riserva for nebbiolo that makes one think of North American pinot noir. The strawberry is nearly candied (west coast) and there’s an evergreen note (eastern cool climate) so the juxtaposition is a candid one. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted January 2020

Spiked juiced is this aromatic Montà nebbiolo, he of sharp acids and grippy tannin. Not the morbido and supple Roero Riserva that many are and so many others aspire to be but when you encounter such structure you just know the soils are responsible. You also figure the winemaker made the wine that had to be made. This will be very long lived. Drink 2022-2030.  Tasted January 2020

Cascina Ca Rossa Roero Riserva DOCG Mompissano 2016

Cool and just hinting at a mentholated note in a very transparent Canale nebbiolo. The barrel is clearly a factor and melted nicely in for good integration and balance. Makes for a sweet fruit profile and perfectly great ubiquitous Roero Riserva. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted January 2020

Cascina Chicco Roero Riserva DOCG Valmaggiore 2016

Here Vezza d’Alba Roero Riserva does nebbiolo less like the side of the river where it resides and more like Barbaresco. That may sound like a good idea but the resemblance is not one in a mirror but instead a look that tries a bit too hard. Well made but out of context and place. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted January 2020

Quiet if cool and savoury to the edge of verdancy. Nebbiolo from Roero can go this route, delicate when chilled and refreshing even while in Castellinaldo Riserva form. Warming the glass releases the volatile notes in a what is ostensibly a cool-climate condition. This drinks like frappato meeting cabernet franc and that’s a delicious combination with the added specificity of a cru named Serra Zoanni. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted January 2020

Cascina Lanzarotti Roero Riserva DOCG Carlinot 2016

So much vanilla emits from this wooden ship of a Canale nebbiolo for Roero Riserva. Cool palate feels go herbal and then the vanilla continues to creep. One-dimensional nebbiolo. Drink 2020-2021.  Tasted January 2020

Deltetto 1953 Roero Riserva DOCG Braja 2016

High level example of chic style and prominent wood clothing. Smooth and in the vanilla, not to mention so much spice. Tannic structure ruins through every pore. Big nebbiolo from S. Stefano Roero and Braja cru. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted January 2020

Filippo Gallino Roero Riserva DOCG Sorano 2016

Lovely excess of volatility and ripeness matched by verdancy for Roero Riserva of dedication to tradition. The intensity of the Canale-Sorano fruit-acid compendium is a bit strained and forced. Has worked very hard and the time is now to drink up. Drink 2020-2021.  Tasted January 2020

Lorenzo Negro Roero Riserva DOCG S. Francesco 2016

A bright red and white lighting nebbiolo from Monteu Roero here speaks to younger vines and sandier soils. Bright red fruit is less Riserva and more Annata with sharp and tang-riddled acidity. Prominent food wine with some wood spice and warmth at the finish. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted January 2020

Earthy and wild fruit aromatic Canale nebbiolo with a real case of the reds and the blues. The guess of Vigna Renesio would be blue clay soil in this particular case as per the way it wells with curiosity. Lots of barrel influence but the bones are supported by a chalkiness that is just starting to liquify, though several years will allow for a slow recline. Drink 2020-2026.  Tasted January 2020

Proper emittance, high-toned and regaling, going in many directions, mostly to culminate at a vortex where complexity lives. Rich and vigorous Pinti cru nebbiolo in Canale, complicit with all parts, fruit very much alive and texture rampant in waves and variegation. Top example of Riserva and not yet at the peak. Drink 2021-2028. Tasted January 2020

Simple, light, airy and delicate Sudisfà Roero of lovely disposition, namely finesse. Such integration and seamlessness is to be lauded, not to mention how drinkable and pleasurable it truly is. Not the most structured (though it is blessed with enough) but that matters little when all other parts do so much to please. Drink 2020-2024.  Tasted January 2020

Pace Roero Riserva DOCG 2016

On the light and delicate Canale side, even for Roero Riserva with a full compliment of barrel incline while the wine already shows signs of decline. It’s quiet and lovely but no stuffing remains. Just some spice and soaked woody notes. Drink 2020.  Barrel Sample tasted January 2020

Pelassa Roero Riserva DOCG Antaniolo 2016

Tones set to high and wood bringing things back down in a topsy-turvy example that wafts so much creamy vanilla. Just too much wood and very little integration, not to mention a hot finish. From Montà. Drink 2020-2021.  Tasted January 2020

Ponchione Maurizio Roero DOCG 2017

Oxidative and nearly prune in aromas. Spice and blood orange, quite astringent. Expressive from hard pressing and replete with green tannins. From Govone. Drink 2020-2021.  Tasted January 2020

Porello Marco Roero Riserva DOCG San Michele 2016

Elegantly soft Canale nebbiolo in Riserva clothing from the San Michele cru for Roero with little effort needed to find prime and simple joy while needing little to no structure in the mix. At least from this point going forward. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted January 2020

Trees of Cherasco, Piemonte

Renato Buganza Radici E Filari Roero Riserva DOCG 2016

Fromm Guarene, a simplified nebbiolo with no shortage of red and ropey fruit at peak sugar ripeness unmatched by phenolics just a touch short. Makes for high acid, tart and taut tannins with a green edge. Drink 2020-2021.  Barrel Sample tasted January 2020

Taliano Michele Roero Riserva DOCG Roche Dra Bossora 2016

Lots going on from the top with a multifarious aromatic Montà drift. Tons of red fruit, a spike of volatility and a touch of Brettanomyces. Plenty of palate flavour and texture, finishing with a creamy if cool pool created by the time in wood. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted January 2020

Valdinera Roero Riserva DOCG San Carlo 2016

From Corneliano d’Alba and one of the ripest examples at the height of sweet strawberry. Almost all and only about fruit with very little barrel influence though the tannins are a bit astringent. Close but just a bit tightly pressed and wound. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted January 2020

Roero DOCG 2007 and Riserva DOCG 2006

Filippo Gallino Roero DOCG 2007

Near tertiary 13 year-old Roero nebbiolo from Canale with a lovely disposition and acidity that will not and perhaps never relent. Showing beautifully and with sweet fruit still intact. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted January 2020

Cascina Chicco Roero Riserva DOCG Valmaggiore 2006

Perhaps the richest of the retrospective Roero nebbioli is this from Cascina Chicco in Vezza d’Alba, all wood, chocolate, high acids and crunchy spice. A very oaky wine with plenty of drive that will not relent as a result of its strong-willed ambition. Wow, apropos for the Valmaggiore moniker. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted January 2020

Lorenzo Negro Roero Riserva DOCG S. Francesco 2006

Was a deeper, richer and riper nebbiolo from Monteu Roero-Roero for sure so now it has really rendered and deepened to wet earth. Still full of acidity and the trend is starting to appear with the obviousness of the grape-place-age relationship. Serious if pressing S. Francesco stuff here from Negro Lorenzo. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted January 2020

Monchiero Carbone Roero Riserva DOCG Printi 2006

Quite advanced and deservedly so for Roero nebbiolo with yet another look at the aging capabilities from the lesser appreciated Canale lands. Acids are quite striking here and the tannins surprisingly alive. Everything is. That’s nothing short of remarkable and surely far from lactic, Good site this Printi. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted January 2020

Taliano Michele Roero Riserva DOCG Roche Dra Bossora 2006

Taliano’s Montà nebbiolo is really showing its age and missing the classic Roero acidity. Actually comes through late along with the really drying tannins. Fruit vacated house a while back. Drink 2020.  Tasted January 2020

Good to go!

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Across the Tanaro River to Roero

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